Pixar has the most consistent record of success of any current studio. Why is that? Songwriter and composer Randy Newman said this:
"The Pixar people always emphasize that the characters in their films are adults and deal with adult emotions. That’s really kind of a big idea. I always worry toward the end of their process when the picture is about to lock in terms of story, script and form if it’s funny enough. They never worry about that. They worry about emotion. Whether an audience will feel it. Whether it’s got, I think it’s called heart."
What's the source of this heart? Newman says, "And, about heart, you can’t put it there, like you sometimes can a joke. It’s got to proceed from who’s up there on the screen and if we care about what happens to them. It must be hard to do, but they’ve done it over and over like no other studio ever has."
When I was story editing a sitcom, I had the same philosophy: first, let's make sure the story works, meaning that it presents a conflict that we will care about in terms of how it might affect our protagonist, and it has a beginning, middle, and end. Then we'll make it funny. If you concentrate on the funny first, it's easy to get distracted from the story.
Randy Newman's quotes above come from the notes with the new Walt Disney Records Legacy Collection, which has 20 hours worth of rarities in 12 discs. Each disc comes with an illustrated book, adding up to almost 50,000 words. You can read more about it here. Warning: it'll put a dent into your pocketbook: £222.96 (on Amazon.co.uk) or $240.03 (Amazon.com).