Harley Jessup, a production designer at Pixar Studios, who worked on Monsters, Inc and Ratatouille, has described a culture of paper drawing and picture-making at the company’s headquarters in California that wouldn’t seem out of place in an impressionist’s studio in 19th-century Paris. At Pixar there are daily life drawing and painting classes, open to everyone, and the story department employs between five and 15 full-time artists solely to work on storyboards. (And a storyboard, as Jessup explains, just to be clear, “is literally a 4ft x 8ft bulletin board covered with rows of 3½in x 8in hand-drawn story panels”: no gimmicks, no gizmos, no graphic design.) These story panels are scanned and cut together to produce story reels – basic black and white cartoon versions of the film – and are only then replaced by computer-graphic sequences, developed using yet further hand-drawn sketches, paintings and sculptures. Jessup adds up the number of storyboard drawings produced for various Pixar films thus:

  • A Bug’s Life 27,555
  • Toy Story 2 28,244
  • Monsters, Inc 46,024
  • Finding Nemo 43,536
  • The Incredibles 21,081
  • Cars 47,000
  • Ratatouille 72,000

So, no signs of a paperless office at Pixar.

Nor, as far as I can see, anywhere else. All our modern businesses and institutions are built on paper, from plans to contracts to share certificates, to memos, to Post-Its and HP desktop printouts. Blizzards of paper. Tonnes of the stuff. Torrents. Avalanches. Foundations.