How Pixar’s Dug Days Team Benefited From Working At Home

Dug the talking dog surrounded by five tiny puppies

The Pixar Animation Studios team working on Dug Days produced the series entirely from home. While the global pandemic has caused various companies to explore working from home, it was especially daunting to Pixar animators who are used to working in a hands-on collaborative environment. It turns out that working from home benefited the Dug Days team and the stories they told.

Dug Days is a Disney+ spinoff series of Pixar’s feature film Up centered around the loveable talking dog, Dug, and his human, Carl. The new collection of shorts feature everyday events in and around Dug’s backyard that provide a humorous and heartwarming window into how our furry friends see the world. I spoke with writer/director Bob Peterson and producer Kim Collins about working on the series from home, and Peterson shared the following upside:

One thing that was really cool is that you got to see people's home lives and their dogs. You’ve got a little kid coming in during a meeting and looking in at us and, who knows, that kid may be an animator someday because of this, but it was really nice to incorporate people's family lives. And we had to, because, you know, people are taking care of their kids. And so I liked that part of it. I mean, it's never the same in a creative endeavor to be apart like this, but we did it and we were able to communicate.

Disney and Pixar’s Dug Days is really about family. We mourned with Carl when his wife passed in Up, and now we get to see him create this family for the next chapter of his life, which includes Dug, along with some friends and neighbors. When writing stories about family, and families with pets, what better way than while actually looking at and talking to family members and their pets?

Bob Peterson also mentioned seeing kids pop into meetings, which we all know can be disruptive to certain meetings at certain times, but in this case, he saw it as a way for the kids to learn about animation. I remember not really understanding what my parents' jobs were as a kid; I think I more saw work as a place they went for the day and then they came back. As an adult, I’ve found it a bit difficult to explain certain work to those who haven’t experienced it, so it’s really cool that some of the children of people on the Pixar team got to experience animation behind-the-scenes first hand.

Kim Collins, producer of Dug Days, also shared some benefits of working from home. Her perspective leaned more toward the logistics of the job and how she could best replicate the culture and environment of the offices at Pixar Animation Studios. Here’s what Collins told CinemaBlend:

We also had to figure out, how do we work together now? We're such a collaborative studio and so used to being together as a group. How do we continue that creative dynamic with all these little boxes on the screen? And one of the things that emerged from it that we got a lot of great positive feedback about, is we kept all of our reviews, which in the studio, the rooms that they're in can only be so big, so they can only fit three people or whatever. But with this, as many people could listen in and join as wanted to Zoom. So we would have the lighting people come to animation dailies, which is not usually something that would happen, just because there was room. And they would sit there and they would light and they would listen. And then something that Bob would talk about thematically that lighting artists could bring to their work as well. So it was sort of, we didn't expect it, but it had, there was a sort of an unforeseen benefit of having to work from home.

If you’re fascinated by animation like me, it’s always exciting to peek behind the curtain. And while multiple teams and departments work on a single project, they’re not working on the same piece at the same time and often don’t get to see all the pieces fit together until it’s finished. As Kim Collins mentioned, the lighting artists wouldn’t normally attend the animation dailies, but working from home and meeting on Zoom provided the opportunity for that to happen, and all were able to learn from it.

Dug Days is 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.