How Disney And Pixar Repurposed One Character’s Audio From Up For Dug Days

Dug the loveable talking dog barking at the squirrel on top of the bird house

For many actors, voice acting can provide the opportunity to work on a single project or character for a longer period of time because the production does not need to take the actor’s physical appearance into account. But what happens when the actor’s voice changes, particularly with young talent as they age? Pixar’s Up director Bob Peterson was faced with this dilemma when creating Dug Days for Disney+, and he came to the unique solution of repurposing the dialogue for one of the characters from Up.

Although it’s been twelve years since we all cried during our first viewing of Up, the new Disney+ series Dug Days takes place immediately following the ending of Up. In the feature film, Jordan Nagai voiced Russell, the Junior Wilderness Explorer who accompanied Carl to Paradise Falls and befriended Dug. Nagai was nine years old when Up was created and is now twenty-one, so you can imagine that he sounds a bit different. I spoke with director Bob Peterson for an interview with CinemaBlend and he revealed that all of Russell’s audio in Dug Days is actually taken straight from Nagai’s performance in Up. Here’s what the director shared:

It was a strange idea that we went with, but I just love that kid's voice. And since this happens right after Up, I thought, what if we just use the voice of Russell? And so literally, I wrote the scene, the sequence, and then went through looking for similar things. And some of it worked, some of it, I had to rewrite Dug around there. Like when Doug asks Russell, ‘Hey, can I have your sandwich?’ I wrote for Russell, you know, ‘No, you can't have my sandwich, it's mine,’ but we didn't have that. And so what instead was we just went with this little giggle and he kind of moved away, from Dug. And then also the little song he sings when he's building the collars was something we had totally forgot about. And I was like, that is far better than anything I wrote. So let's go ahead and use that. But we ran out of things, so I'm not sure we can do it again, but boy, it was fun. It felt like a time capsule. And then all three voices are the same as they were in Up.

I find this absolutely fascinating. Of course, technology allows for the capability and with Pixar Animation Studios’ love for easter eggs, it’s only fitting that the team would dive into the archives searching for fun things to add to new projects. But to literally write dialogue around a performance from years ago to re-use the audio and preserve the timeline of the story is just next-level. Even if you haven’t watched Up in a while, you’ll feel like you watch it seconds before the first episode of Dug Days.

Russell and Carl in Up

Dug Days is a new collection of shorts that follows the humorous misadventures of Dug, the lovable dog from Disney and Pixar’s feature film Up. Each short features everyday events that occur in and around Dug's backyard, all through the exciting (and delightfully distorted) eyes of our favorite talking dog. Written and directed by Academy Award nominee and Emmy Award winner Bob Peterson and produced by Kim Collins, the shorts are now streaming exclusively on Disney+.

Samantha LaBat

Obsessed with Hamilton and most things Disney. Gets too attached to TV show characters. Loves a good thriller, but will only tolerate so much blood.