The return of Pixar shorts is something we’ve been waiting for, and Carl’s Date is a fitting choice—not least of all because it’s a wonderful homage to the late, great Ed Asner, the voice of Up’s Carl Fredricksen.
io9 was in the audience and not emotionally prepared (so yes, bring tissues) for a surprise screening of Carl’s Date at Pixar during a press day for Elemental. Fans of Pete Doctor’s 2009 Pixar classic—and of Dug Days, the recent Disney+ Up universe shorts—will especially appreciate the heartwarming conclusion to Carl’s story. Written and directed by Academy Award nominee and Emmy winner Bob Peterson (he’s also the voice of Dug), and produced by Kim Collins, Carl’s Date follows a stirring (and adorable) day in the life of Carl and Dug; it brings things full circle to see how a dog’s love can change you for the better (there’s something in my eyes, I swear).
Dug emotionally supports Carl when he agrees to go on a date with a lady friend—which is a really big step for him, as director Peterson shared during the post-film Q&A. “No one will ever replace Ellie for Carl. This is just friendship. This is just honoring her, Ellie saying ‘go have a new adventure’. And this really puts it to the test. Should he do this or not?” Peterson explained, citing his own grandparent’s journey into dating after the loss of their partner. He and Collins also confirmed that this will be Pixar’s last Up story for now: “It just seemed like the logical next step, and a closure for the story is that he’s finally committed to doing what Ellie wanted.” These plans were definitely affected by Asner’s passing shortly after recording for Carl’s Date.
“He’s hilarious, man,” Peterson said of working with the legendary Asner. “The guy is Carl Fredricksen. It’s just so fun to work with him. You know, I grew up with The Mary Tyler Moore Show. It just was a treat to be with him. He’s grouchy, but had this amazing heart and [was] very, very funny. We feel blessed to have been with him toward the end of his career, and I feel like this honors him pretty well.”
Carl’s Date was originally scheduled to be released on Disney+ along with Dug Days, and the decision to take it to the big screen happened after after Asner’s passing, Peterson said. “As we worked on it and it just sort of felt like, ‘wait a minute, there is this tradition of putting a short in front of films’—this would play well with [Elemental’s] themes of love and loss. Pete Doctor came to us and [said] let’s at least try out the idea.”
Collins added about the timing, “When we were finishing the Dug Days series, Bob had this other idea for Carl’s Date, we started working on it, we made it with Pete Doctor’s blessing, It sort of went down that path and then we had this idea to put it in front of Elemental to revive that old short in front of feature films, which I personally miss. So I’m very honored.”
Bold, emotional movies that took chances with innovative artistic tech—like Doctor’s Up—really paved the way for movies like Elemental. As it happens, Elemental director Peter Sohn was the inspiration for Up character Russell, and it would be wonderful to see him pick up the reins and continue Russell’s story somewhere down the line. In the meantime, however, Carl’s Date is the perfect conclusion to Carl and Dug’s stories, as well as the perfect touching farewell to Asner.
Carl’s Date will open with Elemental in theaters June 16.
Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.