- “It feels good to be appreciated.”
Assistant Mayor Bellwether is the main antagonist of Disney's 2016 animated feature film Zootopia. A scorned sheep, her ultimate goal is to supplement the position held by Mayor Lionheart and create a new order where prey animals dominate the predators.
Bellwether was the assistant mayor to the mighty Mayor Lionheart, whose impatience and intolerance toward even the slightest amount of incompetence often resulted in the former's humiliation. Like Judy Hopps, Bellwether had endured a life of neglect, implied to have repeatedly been at the hands of predator mammals. Over time, she would develop a disdain toward them, and their treatment toward prey mammals, setting a goal to someday make Zootopia a place where prey reign supreme and predators are labeled as nothing more than worthless, bloodthirsty "savages". To do so, she allied herself with rams who shared her sentiments and used flowers known as "night howlers" to create a chemical drug capable of turning civilized mammals savage. Once predators were deemed too dangerous for society, Lionheart, as the plan would go, would be removed from office out of fear, while Bellwether would be promoted, thus granting her control over the city, and the satisfaction of establishing prey as the dominant species.
- Assistant Mayor Bellwether is a sweet sheep with a little voice and a lot of wool, who constantly finds herself under foot of the larger-than-life Mayor Lionheart.
- “We're on the same team, Judy! Underestimated, underappreciated. Aren't you sick of it? Predators—they may be strong and loud, but prey outnumber predators ten to one. Think of it; 90% of the population, united against a common enemy. We'll be unstoppable.”
- ―Bellwether explaining her true motives
Bellwether epitomizes the term "a wolf in sheep's clothing": on the surface, she appears to be a sweet and finicky, albeit overworked, sheep doing all she can to help the city, though inside hides a ruthless and embittered mind. Years of discrimination and lack of consideration from her predator coworkers engineered an utterly vengeful, dishonest, and diabolical personality that was devoted against all predators, hidden behind her seemingly meek disposition.
Bellwether's perception of predator mammals is that they are an irredeemable breed with an unjustified superiority complex over prey. To Bellwether, majority rules, and in Zootopia, it is a fact that the prey population drastically outnumbers that of predators. Bellwether uses this information as a means to justify a hostile revision of the city's social structure—one in which she feels entitled to rule. Clinging on to her beliefs that acceptance cannot be earned, Bellwether resorts to manipulating and fearing to enact her ideology. She ultimately cares little for the prey population as individuals, instead of viewing them as a collective capable of heightening her placement on the political ladder to power, evident by how her schemes endangered the lives of prey who were hurt by the predators targeted by Bellweather's minions. Even so, she is sympathetic toward the prey citizens who go through tribulations from predators in a similar manner to her past (she initially considered Judy an acquaintance because of their similarities in this regard). Anyone who sees predators beyond Bellwether's views, however, immediately loses her sympathy.
Aside from obtaining control over the city, Bellwether's plot is primarily driven by her resentment toward Lionheart. Rather than subjecting Lionheart to becoming savage, Bellwether instead develops her plot to end so that it impacts Lionheart personally: the latter's title as mayor is stripped, and his positive reputation amongst the citizens is tarnished, thus destroying his most cherished assets while also ensuring her accession.
Though Bellwether appears harried, and by extension, bumbling, most of the time she is presented, she is secretly a master organizer, operating with lethal cunning. Thanks to her occupation and access to city resources, she was able to create the predator panic without any attention drawn to herself, as well as orchestrating Judy's entire investigation on the mammal cases behind the scenes, leading to Lionheart getting arrested instead; due to her harmless appearance and seemingly friendly demeanor, Bellwether was less likely to be suspected for her crimes. However, she is subject to her overconfidence, which became her downfall: when she believed she had the upper hand, Bellwether admitted her entire plot to Judy and Nick out of pride, unaware that her confession had been recorded by the duo. Furthermore, her notion that predators are irredeemable creatures caused her to underestimate Lionheart's character when planning her scheme; although she successfully stripped him of his political status, Lionheart seemed content in the end and was accepting of his fate so long as the city was safe, thus invalidating Bellwether's supposed success in emotionally damaging him.
Bellwether is a miniature sheep. She has fluffy white wool and has the wool of her head styled up in a pom-pom shape. Bellwether has big, floppy ears, green eyes, and hooves for hands and feet.
Bellwether has numerous outfits and is seen wearing different attire; her formal wear seems to consist of glasses, a shirt, a coat that's opened up with a golden button on the left, and a skirt.
During Judy's police graduation ceremony, Bellwether had an open blue coat over a pink shirt, a gray skirt with a green and red leaf pattern, and a pair of glasses with a red-and-orange frame pattern.
At the Zootopia Police Department about Mrs. Otterton's missing husband, Bellwether's coat and glasses are the color and a gray shirt and skirt with black lines that form a plaid pattern.
At city hall, Bellwether retains the coat and glasses; she's wearing a white shirt with black spots and an orange skirt with white markings on it.
When Bellwether became mayor after Lionheart's arrest, her coat was deep blue with red markings on the edges and the coat's pockets, purple glasses, an indigo shirt, and a dark red skirt with twinkling red stars on it.
At the Natural History Museum, Bellwether's clothing was different shades of blue; her coat and skirt are dark blues with both having the same blue twinkling star pattern, her shirt is blue with dark blue strips doing diagonally, and blue glasses.
When she is arrested, Bellwether sports an orange prison uniform. Also, she goes back to wearing her red-and-orange glasses.
Bellwether wears a few accessories to her clothing as she wore a golden bracelet and a golden necklace with a bell attached to it. At the Zootopia Police Department, her bracelet is orange. When she becomes mayor, it is red. At the Natural History Museum, it is blue. Also, when Bellwether becomes mayor, she wears a button pin on her coat with the initial "Z" on it.
- Sheep Physiology: Bellwether is an anthropomorphic sheep.
- Anthropomorphism: Along with all animals in a world without humans, Bellwether evolved to the point she walks on her back legs, uses human resources like technology, and partakes in human-related activities.
- Genius Intellect: While Bellwether doesn't have much in physical strength, Bellwether's most recognizable trait is her extremely high IQ. Also, given she used to be both the assistant mayor and the mayor of Zootopia, Bellwether has a high degree in politics.
- Master Strategist: Bellwether is a master organizer, as she was able to manipulate prey to turn against predators by making every predatory animal savage. She arranged Judy's investigation into leading Lionheart that he was illegally imprisoning the savage predators, thus resulting in him getting arrested and making Bellwether the new mayor.
- Manipulation: Bellwether is an expert at manipulating others.
Bellwether is first seen during Judy's induction into the Zootopia Police Department, where she stands alongside Mayor Lionheart and is tasked with badging Hopps. Bellwether shows great pride in Zootopia's first rabbit officer, proclaiming that it is a momentous day for "little guys", referring to prey. Before her words can run further, Lionheart rudely removes Bellwether from Judy and subsequently blocks her from the flashing cameras of the press.
Before Judy's first day as an officer, Emmitt Otterton goes missing for days, forcing his distraught wife to seek help at the ZPD. Bellwether is present when Judy volunteers to find Emmitt, and sends Lionheart a knowing text to congratulate him on the growing success of the Mammal Inclusion Initiative, referring to Judy's newfound role as a detective to a major case. Bellwether then speaks to Judy, telling her that she always has an ally at City Hall, should she need any important favors.
Later at City Hall, Bellwether is seen struggling for Lionheart's attention, needing him to discuss various matters regarding the city. Lionheart, seeming more aggressive than usual, coldly orders Bellwether to take care of the matters herself, and to cancel his afternoon, as he needs to run out for confidential matters. Feeling defeated and exhausted, Bellwether sadly gathers the paperwork to begin her assignments, before receiving a surprise visit from Judy and her accomplice, Nick Wilde. Judy explains that she needs access to the city's traffic cameras, which Bellwether obliges to in her "office", which is the boiler room. While doing so, Bellwether laments to Judy and Nick, expressing her excitement in doing something of importance, to which Judy replies with confusion, as she believes the title of "assistant mayor" to be rather significant. Bellwether merely sees it as being a "glorified secretary", and voices her suspicion that Lionheart may have selected her simply for the sake of winning the sheep vote. Just then, Lionheart pages Bellwether, aggressively scolding her for failing to cancel his afternoon. Bellwether hurriedly rushes to finish this assignment, leaving Judy and Nick with her computer.
Using the traffic cameras, Judy and Nick can find asylum with over a dozen predator mammals imprisoned, and all of which have mysteriously gone savage. The imprisonment was at the hands of Mayor Lionheart, who was desperately searching for the cause behind the mysterious outbreak, but to no avail; keeping it confidential to prevent a citywide panic, and by extension, the loss of his position. Judy alerts Chief Bogo, and Lionheart is arrested and removed from office. Bellwether, as a result, becomes the new official mayor of Zootopia.
Judy, meanwhile, is hailed a hero, and a press conference on the savage predators is held. Bellwether is present, and to her advantage, Judy accidentally calls out predators as naturally savage, with the potential to revert to their original, bloodthirsty natures, disturbing the press and causing a citywide panic. Following these events, Bellwether summons Judy to her office and, alongside Chief Bogo, offers her to be the public face of the Zootopia Police Department, as prey mammals look to her as a hero for uncovering the "truth" about predators. Judy declines, feeling she's failed the city, having torn it apart instead of making it a better place, and officially resigns from her position as a police officer, much to Bellwether's shock and confusion.
Sometime later, Judy discovers that toxic flowers are known as "night howlers" are the cause of the strange behavior infecting predators—not instinct—and rushes back to the city to reveal the truth. After she and Nick interrogate Duke Weaselton, they discover that a ram named Doug has been going around purchasing night howlers, and using them to create a serum that turns civilized mammals savage. After she calls Doug to instruct him to dart a leopard in Sahara Square with the serum, Judy and Nick infiltrate Doug's laboratory, steal his equipment as evidence to show to the ZPD, and a chase ensues. Additional ram minions alert Bellwether about the situation, prompting her to take matters into her own hands. Nick successfully retrieves the evidence (a case containing a gun used to shoot predators with paintball-like pellets containing the night howler serum) to show Bogo, but before he and Judy can make it to him by cutting through the natural history museum, Bellwether arrives.
She asks for the evidence, presenting herself as being proud of Judy's success, but when Judy questions how Bellwether knew of their whereabouts, the ploy is broken, and Bellwether reveals her true colors by ordering her rams to capture the pair. Judy is injured while trying to escape, and she and Nick are eventually thrown into a pit exhibit, trapped. Though Bellwether attempts to have Judy join her side, she instead resorts to turning Nick savage so that he will kill Judy, and the entire situation will look like another savage outbreak demonizing predators. Bellwether shoots Nick with the night howler dart gun and "alerts" the ZPD that a savage fox is in the museum and attacking Judy. While Nick becomes feral and stalks Judy, Judy asks why Bellwether is doing this, to which Bellwether confesses her plot to dart all predators in Zootopia to ostracize them from her envisioned prey-dominated society. Just as Nick appears to have bitten Judy, the two reveal that they were merely and deliberately acting out the scene to deceive Bellwether and make her spill the beans. They also reveal that the serum pellets of Bellwether's gun had been replaced with harmless blueberries, meaning Nick had never turned savage. Angered at this failure, Bellwether, having framed Lionheart, threatens to frame Nick and Judy as well, claiming that it's "her word against theirs". However, Judy responds by revealing that she had recorded Bellwether's confession with her carrot pen and plays the recorded monologue, just as Bogo and the ZPD arrive.
Bellwether is arrested along with her accomplices and is sent to prison. During the credits, she is last seen in jail angrily watching a live stream of Gazelle's concert performance with prey and predator united again, which the prison inmates around her seem to enjoy, much to her annoyance while two of them patting on their lap. Later, one of them messes with her wool, much to further annoyance of hers and proceeds to swat him away.
An emoticon version of Bellwether appeared in the Zootopia entry of the As Told by Emoji short series.
- Bellwether is the first female character to be a surprise villain for the Disney Animated Canon.
- Unlike the other sheep in the movie or real-life sheep, Bellwether's pupils aren't rectangular.
- For every scene that Bellwether is featured in, her uniform and glasses color are different.
- Ironically, all of Bellwether's outfits are made of wool.
- The term "bellwether" refers to a sheep that leads a herd. This fits with Bellwether because she is the leader of a team of sheep; Doug, Woolter, Jesse, and three other unnamed rams assisting her with her scheme.
- Strangely, "wether" is used for a castrated male sheep, bred only for meat.
- When designing the look of Bellwether, artists looked to the lambs featured in Make Mine Music, Melody Time, and Lambert the Sheepish Lion for inspiration.
- The relationship between Lionheart and Bellwether was inspired by the old phrase "March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb".
- Bellwether's connection to the night howler operation was foreshadowed earlier in the film; when Nick and Judy were using her computer, she left a post-it note with Doug's name and phone number stuck to her desk. Doug is the sniper that drugged Mr. Otterton and Mr. Manchas.
- Bellwether being a villain may be a nod to the idiom "wolf in sheep's clothing". Also, at the end of the movie, Officer Wolford, a wolf, is shown to have a sheep disguise, which may be a reference to the same idiom.
- She is mistakenly named "Bellweather" in Disney Crossy Road.
- Her first name, "Dawn", is briefly mentioned by the snow leopard newscaster when announced that Bellwether was the one behind the night howlers and was arrested for the crime.
- Julius, J., Lasseter, J., Howard, B., & Moore, R. (2016). The Art of Zootopia. Chronicle Books, page 79.
- Berman, Rachel (October 25, 2016). "Meet the Characters in Zootopia". Oh My Disney. Disney. Retrieved on October 25, 2015.
- "Disney 'Zootopia' Fun Facts, Part One". Stitch Kingdom (January 29, 2016).
- Moore, Rich (May 8, 2016). "Hey Jacob ― it's a bit of a reference to the old saying, "March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb."" (Tweet). Twitter.