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Analyzing the Disney Villains: Dawn Bellwether (Zootopia)

Origin: Zootopia (2016)

Motivation: Strong. Both personally and socially, Bellwether is full of resentment for being disrespected and mistreated. And why shouldn’t she feel this way when she’s been dominated by a predator for her career? This is a world where there is so much diversity, you are basically a stereotype of your species. As a secretary to a lion (the lion and the lamb?) she has to subjugate herself to predators. But prey are the majority vote 10 to 1! I’d be mad too if I was so underrepresented. But at heart, her desires are purely self-interest.

Character Strengths: Being a prey animal, Bellwether has the ability to fade into the flock. Sheep are good at that. And after working for a predator for so long, she has learned that fear is a good way to stay in power. It takes a master thinker and risktaker to engineer a plot like she does.

Evilness: Has no problem serving under a predator. Plays the long game. That means she’s hard to predict. Mayor Lionheart isn’t innocent of anything either — he does the wrong thing for the right reason. But Bellwether was the mastermind. I find it pretty dastardly to try and change an entire society. It’s not taking over the world, but it is nudging it. The movie does a good job of portraying the bait-and-switch villain. Bellwether changes from dopey assistant to menace traipsing through the abandoned shadowy museum with hulking ram henchmen.

Tools: The key seems to be when she found out about Midnicampum holicithius/”night howlers” which apparently have the effect of invoking savagery in any animal. With this, she can carry out her plan to trigger predators’ deep-seated instincts. And to this end, she’s recruited some Breaking Bad rams as muscle. I assume they’re following along because they’re cut from the same wool.

She’s also manipulating her boss behind the scenes. It’s not stated in the movie, but we can conjecture that she’s the one who convinced Mayor Lionheart to capture the triggered predators for study. Why else would she also use Judy to find him out? Pretty convenient she was there to ensure Judy takes the missing predator case and gives them access to the city’s security cameras. This leads to Mayor Lionheart’s arrest and her instatement as mayor.

Complement to the Hero: Both Judy Hopps and Bellwether have similar stories, but neither is directly influenced by the other, which is fine by me. I don’t like it when writers try to shoehorn “I made you but you made me first” into the story.

As small herbivores, both Judy and Bellwether lived similar lives. Not just prey, but the preyest of the prey. Both bunnies and sheep are known for being completely vulnerable and defenseless. Sheep are oft-used allegories in biblical passages and Looney Tunes cartoons. Bunnies have stories like Watership Down and as cutesy princess sidekicks.

Both were told they had to live small demure lives, that they couldn’t be anything more than what they were born to be. The difference is that Judy’s not interested in power. She’s interested in helping others. But she starts without the life lesson that people are complex, they make mistakes, and they don’t always understand each other. Bellwether already knows that and chooses to make the system work for her instead of changing it.

Fatal Flaw: Bellwether’s idea is that the majority prey’s fear will motivate them to choose prey animals as leaders (such as herself). What she didn’t count on was that people can evolve and see past their pasts and biology and still be friends. As a story-driven movie, I find it delightful that Judy looks like she’s going to die by the one thing everyone told her to be afraid of (a fox), but it serves to defeat the bad guy.

Method of Defeat/Death: To silence Judy, she shoots Nick with the distilled “night howler” pellets which trigger predator instincts. Little does she know that Nick has swapped out the pellets for blueberries. They’re putting on a show so that Bellwether can monologue and confess her plan on Judy’s carrot recorder. With this evidence, the police surround her and take her to jail. The last we see of her is her begrudgingly watching Gazelle’s live-streamed concert uniting predator and prey in song and dance.

Final Rating: Four stars

Previous Analyses
Bowler Hat Guy (Meet the Robinsons)
John Silver (Treasure Planet)
Yokai (Big Hero 6)
The Agent (Bolt)
The Spirits (Frozen II)
King Candy (Wreck-It Ralph)
Abuela (Encanto)
Prince Hans (Frozen)
Shere Khan (The Jungle Book)
Aunt Sarah (Lady and the Tramp)
Yzma (The Emperor’s New Groove)
Percival C. McLeach (The Rescuers Down Under)
Ichabod Crane (The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad)
Lady Tremaine (Cinderella)
Governor Ratcliffe (Pocahontas)
Pinocchio’s Villains (Pinocchio)
Sykes (Oliver and Company)
Alameda Slim (Home on the Range)
Rourke (Atlantis: The Lost Empire)
The Evil Queen (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs)
Ursula (The Little Mermaid)
Dr. Facilier (The Princess and the Frog)
Gaston (Beauty and the Beast)
Willie the Giant (Mickey and the Beanstalk)
Hades (Hercules)
The Queen of Hearts (Alice in Wonderland)
Jafar (Aladdin)
Shan Yu (Mulan)
Man (Bambi)
Clayton (Tarzan)
The Horned King (The Black Cauldron)
Mother Gothel (Tangled)
Cobra Bubbles (Lilo and Stitch)
Cruella De Vil (101 Dalmatians)
Madame Medusa (The Rescuers)
Captain Hook (Peter Pan)
Amos Slade (The Fox and the Hound)
Madam Mim (The Sword in the Stone)
Claude Frollo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
Scar (The Lion King)
Prince John (Robin Hood)
Edgar (The Aristocats)
Ratigan (The Great Mouse Detective)
Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty)

Eric Juneau is a software engineer and novelist on his lunch breaks. In 2016, his first novel, Merm-8, was published by eTreasures. He lives in, was born in, and refuses to leave, Minnesota. You can find him talking about movies, video games, and Disney princesses at http://www.ericjuneaubooks.com where he details his journey to become a capital A Author.

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