Dug Days brings back the magic of Up over a decade later, focusing on the daily life of Dug the dog as he and Carl (voiced by the late great Ed Asner) settle into their new home. Created by Up‘s writer and co-director Bob Peterson, who also voices Dug himself, the series follows everyone’s favorite talking dog as he discovers new things and experiences adventure right in his own backyard.
While not every favorite from the original film makes it into the story – after all, Kevin is busy taking care of her babies in Paradise Falls – there are appearances by the beloved science nerd Russell (still voiced by Jordan Nagai, although the method is surprising). The series premiered on September 1, and it consists of five short episodes that are sure to delight families of all ages.
Peterson and Dug Days producer Kim Collins spoke to Screen Rant about the inspiration behind some of the dog tales and the process behind certain narrative decisions.
Screen Rant: Bob, you got to write, direct, and actually be Dug. What is it like to juggle all these roles?
Bob Peterson: Well, it can get confusing. Sometimes I’ll launch into direct but in the voice of Dug. It’s like, “Wait. No, no, no, no. That’s not supposed to [happen.]”
But it all happens in compartments. The writing happens, and the good thing is I have Dug now in my DNA from Up, so I can write the dialogue. I thought about my own dogs and the things they do. Then it came time to record, and so that was its own sort of season. Then it became time to direct animation and layout and lighting, and again, that was its own thing. So, it kind of split up.
But when recording Dug, I had to do it on my own sometimes. You never know if you’re quite getting it, and it took me about two weeks to get back into the character and find it again. I’m older now, so I have a little bit of gruff in my voice. I had to try to figure out a way to make Dug seem like Dug and not like Roz [from Monsters, Inc].
It’s like you’re directing yourself.
Bob Peterson: Yeah, I was really hard on myself. I’m a jerk. I made myself not eat dinner. It was awful.
Kim, you also worked on Up. How different was it approaching it from this producer angle?
Kim Collins: Oh, interesting question. I came on to Up as it was already going. Actually, Bob, [was the] front end and I was more the backend on the production once it was really going through. So, I came into it in that regard.
Whereas with Dug Days, I had to build it from the ground up. We just had the scripts, and we had long-dormant characters to resuscitate. I just went into it with the spirit of how amazing it was to work on Up, and what a great team that the producer Jonas Rivera built. And my production manager at the time Mark Nielsen; he’s one of the executive producers on Up along with Pete Docter, the director. They set such a tone that it was an honor for me to try to just be able to extend that into this production.
Speaking of long-dormant characters, were there any conversations about who we would get to see when? What was the decision-making process there?
Bob Peterson: Well, we certainly wanted to bring Russell because they’re sort of the big three. We thought of Kevin as being back now safe with her babies and raising her little chicks. Maybe we’ll see Kevin again someday, but for now, we thought, “Let’s just keep it to these three.”
Russell took us a while to sort of rebuild for the present generation of technology. We started on some episodes without him, and then I wanted him to be able to move in next door to sort of point toward the future. We had to have Russell – just had to. The funny thing was that we would have to go find a new voice, but the kid that played Russell was so good, and this happens right after Up. I thought, “Well, why not just use dialogue that wasn’t used in Up?” The B-sides, exactly.
And, man, there are some great B-sides back there. That little song he sings? I talked to Pete Docter, “Do you remember that little song? Why didn’t we use that little song? It’s so cute.” It was a grand experiment. I don’t think too many people attempt this. But we mined all the gold we could find, and now I don’t know that we could do it again.
But, boy, that was fun making it so that it was those voices from the movie.
Kim, I know that quarantine obviously affected the process for you guys. What were the biggest changes for when it happened?
Kim Collins: Pixar culture is very collaborative, and we are physically in rooms together for a lot of the day. We’re always in a screening room, and there’s 30 people packed in there – or in meetings, and always moving around to each other’s offices. All of that wiped away.
Once we got over some of the technical hurdles of just getting everyone’s internet to be fast enough and making sure they had all their equipment and that everything was secure in our setups, we had to figure out how to get that collaborative culture into these small little windows.
It was a process, and we all fumbled through and found our way together. I think one of the lovely, unexpected joys of it is that we did all fumble through it together. There was a lot of acceptance across the board, and just figuring out that new way of working together. Everyone wanted to recreate, however best we could, that team collaboration – and we got there.
I feel like it brought out the best in a lot of people.
Bob Peterson: Yeah. I think you had to be a little improvisational; do more with less and communicate more. Kim talks about how people would sit down on each other’s meetings and learn more about things, just on Zoom, than they might have been able to do with real meetings.
I know that you talked about the fireworks incident being inspired by your own dog. Are there other episodes or Dug moments that either were inspired by real-life or that took longer to come up with because they weren’t?
Bob Peterson: I’m an old man now with a bad memory. Thanks, Tatiana.
That was one of them. Just thinking through: in the first episode with the squirrel, I’ve noticed whenever I do any woodworking or any kind of project, my dog’s over my shoulder. “What are we doing today?” Dogs love a great project. I’ve said that many times. In fact, I had Carl say that, and we had to take it out for time. “Well, dogs like a great project.” And that idea of Dug climbing into his lap while he’s trying to build things came from my dog as well.
Just a lot of different things. The idea of “Squirrel!” itself was me and my dogs just sitting and relaxing. I’d kind of do a take just to see what it would do, and it would stop breathing, and then go back to relax. And that’s kind of the beginning of that “Squirrel!” That kind of feeling.
There’s so much in my dogs, Pete’s dogs – all of our dogs. Kim’s dogs.
Dug Days is now available on Disney+.