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Inside Pixar’s new short, “Carl’s Date” with director Bob Peterson

Disney•Pixar’s “Up” might have ended on a solid emotional note, but one question remained in one of the filmmakers’ minds: was Carl going to find new love?

That person was Bob Peterson, who also voiced Dug in the film and the Disney+ shorts, Dug Days, which debuted last year and brought back Mr. Fredricksen, Russell, and Dug after over a decade. The new short created by Peterson, “Carl’s Date,” will act to answer the question of Carl’s romantic future, and as a cap to the Dug Days series.

Peterson and producer Kim Collins were at Pixar’s studio in Emeryville, California to show the full short and host a Q&A for a small group of invited press. By the end of the four-minute short, there was not a dry eye in the room.

“I still cry, and I know it’s coming every single time,” said Peterson after the screening, and thought it was so emotional for everyone for a few reasons, including Ed Asner who died in 2021, but recorded his lines for the short before he passed away. “I think it’s a nice Ed Asner tribute of sorts. He was so wonderful and so much fun to work with. We’re going to miss him a lot,” said Peterson.

Loss and moving on, which were central themes to “Up” are very much revisited in “Carl’s Date” as the story that Peterson developed and wrote (in partnership with “Up” director and Pixar’s now chief creative officer Pete Docter, who served as executive producer on the short) were about Carl moving on in his life after the loss of Ellie.

“It was a tough one to have decided what to do here with Carl for the story. The fact of the matter is that one will replace Ellie, ever. But the last thing she said [to Carl] was ‘go have a new adventure,’ so this is him honoring her. He wouldn’t have done what he did in our short had she not said it,” said Peterson.

Peterson’s spark of inspiration for the story was reminiscent of his own grandparents, saying that when one of them had passed, a question remained for the remaining spouse about honoring them by staying alone, or wanting to move forward with their life.

“It’s such an individual decision, but in Carl’s case, it’s a huge step to decide to go back out into the world and continue on with his life,” said Peterson.

While much of the emphasis will be about Carl moving on, however, Peterson and producer Kim Collins hope we won’t forget about Dug. “He’s still part of Carl’s life in a big way,” said Collins. “Our short reiterates how much Dug loves Carl and how much Carl relies on Dug. They make a beautiful relationship,” Collins continued.

To create the short, Pixar filmmakers used the same technical animation assets (characters, environments) they used for Dug Days, set the short in the fewest sets as possible so that the focus would be on Carl and Dug, according to Peterson. Many of the scenes in the short revolve around Carl rehearsing what he’s going to do on his date with the help of Dug through a bunch of role-playing gags.

“Part of the fun in doing a short is that you don’t have to worry too much about a lot of things, including the story. He [Carl] is going to just go to a coffee shop or something with this lady. He’s going to have this new friendship with this woman, so building it all up from how he’s weirding out to prepare is what we went with, and it worked so well on so many levels,” said Peterson.

“Carl’s Date” will play in front of Pixar’s next full-length original feature, “Elemental,” even though it was supposed to debut by itself directly on Disney+ earlier this year. Peterson, a 30-year Pixar veteran, loved the studio’s early years of showing shorts at the top of their feature films, and is glad this staple of the studio is returning. 

“We’ve seen “Carl’s Date” and “Elemental” together, and I think our short with its theme of love dovetail nicely into the beginning of “Elemental’s” story,” said Peterson “I’m just honored that Pixar would choose our short to bring this shorts tradition back,” Peterson continued.

Catch “Carl’s Date” in front of “Elemental” this coming Friday 6/16 exclusively to theaters, and shortly after on Disney+. Our special thanks to Bob Peterson and Kim Collins for contributing to this story!


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