Up's co-director on voicing a dog—and why

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Bob Peterson—co-director, writer and voice actor in Up—counts himself as an fan of Ed Asner, the multiple Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actor who voices the main character in Disney/Pixar's upcoming 3-D animated film.

As he told SCI FI Wire at the film's world premiere in Hollywood last Saturday, he and his fellow Pixar filmmakers couldn't be happier with their choice. "We grew up with him," Peterson said. "I mean, he is [great]. We saw The Mary Tyler Moore Show all our lives, and [he provided] night after night of great comedic timing, you know, [his] timing is so great, and we just knew he was our guy."

The movie calls for Asner's character, elderly Carl Fredricksen, to have a hard shell but a soft center. "Ed Asner is a curmudgeon, but he is a lovable curmudgeon," Peterson said. "Crusty yet lovable is the term. When we showed him the statue of what Carl looks like, he said, 'That looks nothing like me!' and we go, 'Oh, perfect. He's our man,' because he says what he thinks, and that is what we wanted Carl to be. He's soulful, too. And very funny at times, so we knew he would balance that curmudgeonly quality."

Peterson himself voices the dogs Alpha and Dug. Judging from Up's trailers and early screenings, Dug is quickly shaping up as a fan favorite. "[As for me doing voices,] we wanted to make sure that actors are the first in mind, but if we find that the [temporary] voice happens to play well, we will consider it," Peterson said. "And so I will play the temporary voice, and we usually assume that we will put a famous person in there, but we didn't. That's the way it was with Roz, too, in Monsters, Inc. It's always fun, because you get to be a ham, [because otherwise] you're just there with your mouse and your keyboard, so this way you can improve a little bit and be silly."

As far as silliness goes, Peterson said that the 3-D aspect of the movie is far from that. "We tried to stay away from anything gimmicky in our 3-D," he said. "Mainly, it's like looking into a world, and the balloons are off in the distance. There are a few times that they'll come by close to camera, but we really just wanted them to support the story emotionally with the 3-D. If you're thinking about 3-D, then you are not thinking about the story. So we went very subtle with that."

Up opens in theaters nationwide on May 29.