Dawn Bellwether is the true main antagonist of the 2016 Disney animated film Zootopia. Although she seems to be a friendly, sweet sheep at first, she is revealed to be the sociopathic mastermind behind a conspiracy to dart predators in the city of Zootopia in order to have prey fear predator, and then usurp Mayor Lionheart in order to create a new order where: 1) predators are viewed as savage, and 2) where prey mammals would rule.
She is voiced by American actress Jenny Slate.
At first glance, Bellwether appears to be an overworked yet sweet, friendly, and meek sheep who does everything she can to help Zootopia. When asked to do something important, she will immediately take the chance.
However, her friendly demeannor is meant to hide her true nature: a masterfully manipulative, power-hungry, ruthless, sadistic, and racist sociopath. This is seen when she was able to make 14 predators go savage, with no one suspecting her at first, and that she orchestrated Judy's exposure of Lionheart's illegal imprisonment of the savage mammals from behind the scenes, leading to him being arrested instead of her.
Her hunger for power can be seen when it is revealed that the arrests of Lionheart and the Cliffside employees (allowing for her to become Mayor) was part of her plan, and her ruthlessness is visible when it becomes clear that she would kill anyone who either does not agree with her beliefs or is merely standing in her way (shown when she tries to have Nick murder Judy, with the former under the influence of the night howler serum). She is extremely prejudiced against predators, and believes them to be "biologically predisposed to be savages." Sadism can be seen when she wickedly laughed as she watched Nick apparently go savage. This horrifying quality is seen once more when Nick seems to kill Judy, prompting Bellwether to smile. Finally, seeing that she had several henchrams working for her, Bellwether may not have been just a prey supremacist; she seems to specifically prefer sheep.
However, when her true colors are revealed, she becomes overconfident and arrogant that her plans would succeed before trying to kill Judy via making Nick go savage, which proves to cause her downfall shortly afterwards.
Although very little is known about what her life was like prior to the events of the film, Bellwether's explanation for her crimes ("Underestimated, underappreciated. Aren't you SICK OF IT?") implies that her past may have involved one of two things, both of which are similar to what Judy Hopps went through (though it is possible that she went through both of these things):
– being repeatedly bullied by predators during her lifetime, with incidents possibly eerily similar to the time when young Gideon Grey clawed Judy's cheek
– her predator coworkers were biased towards her, much like Bogo originally was to Hopps
Either way, her anti-predator prejudice is known to have deepened to the point that she wanted prey, such as herself, to unite against all predators who lived in Zootopia.
To do this, Dawn teamed up with rams who had the same views as she did, with Doug Ramses, her emotionless right-hand henchram, turning midnicampum holicithias (also known as night howlers) into a serum that can turn any civilized mammal savage. By the time it was Judy's first day as a ZPD officer, 14 predators had gone savage as part of her plan.
Some time before Judy's graduation from the Police Academy, Bellwether became Assistant Mayor to Leodore Lionheart; presumably, this is when he began to have her do all of his work.
Role in Zootopia Edit
In the film, she is first seen when Hopps graduates as valedictorian from the Zootopia Police Academy. Bellwether gives Hopps her ZPD badge, and congratulates her, stating that, "You know, it's a real proud day for us little guys." Only seconds later, Lionheart rudely moves Bellwether off to the side while he takes pictures with Hopps. Even with this, the Assistant Mayor is still able to sneak behind the two and photobomb them by appearing from behind Judy and smiling at the flashing cameras.
Bellwether learns that Lionheart was illegally imprisoning the savage animals at Cliffside Asylum. She also happens to be visiting the ZPD at the same time Mrs. Otterton, whose husband Emmitt had been missing for 10 days, is asked to air outside of Chief Bogo's office. Upon talking to her, she realized that Judy would be perfect in exposing Lionheart. Just as Bogo opened the door, Bellwether mentions that she heard of Judy volunteering to find Emmitt Otterton, and texts this news to Lionheart. She presents herself as Judy's friend at City Hall should she need anything. After that, both Bellwether and Mrs. Otterton leave.
She then finds out that one of Mr. Big's drivers, Renato Manchas, knows of the night howlers. Feeling that he simply knows too much, she orders Doug to dart Manchas in order to silence him, making Manchas the 15th predator to have gone savage. This happens just as Judy and her red fox partner, Nick Wilde, visit his residence. Although the savage Manchas nearly kills the pair, they manage to escape.
Later at City Hall, Bellwether is struggling to get Lionheart's attention, needing for him to help review "very important matters regarding the city. Lionheart coldly responds that he heard her, and that she needs to take care of them herself. He additionally orders her to clear his afternoon since he is going out somewhere. She remakes that he a meeting with Herds and Grazing, only for her to crash into his office's doors, scattering the binders and papers she is carrying everywhere. She sadly gathers the paperwork, but right then, Judy, with Nick standing close by, asks for her help.
The three go to her office, which is actually City Hall's boiler room, where countless boxes marked with the word "URGENT" line the wall outside. As she logs in to the traffic camera database, Nick touches her wool, with Judy trying reaptedly to get him to stop. Just as she does, Bellwether asks which camera Judy wants to seem to which she replies those for Vine and Tujunga in the Rainforest District. She mentions that she never gets to do anything of this importance, with Hopps reminding her she is Zootopia's Assistant Mayor. Bellwether replies that she feels like she's more of a "glorified secretary," and that she may have been chosen as Assistant Mayor only so that Lionheart could obtain the sheep vote. However, she adds that he gave her a "nice mug," which is a "World's Greatest Dad" mug with the word "Dad" scribbled out and "Assistant Mayor" written in its place in red marker. After voicing that it feels good to be appreciated, Lionheart pages Bellwether, reminding her that she needs to cancel his afternoon. Bellwether soon runs out of her office to finish that assignment, leaving Judy and Nick to the cameras.
Using the footage from the cameras, they both discover Lionheart's illegal imprisonment of the savage predators and call the ZPD over to Cliffside Asylum; the footage revealed a car driven by timberwolves working for Lionheart taking Manchas away to Cliffside, therefore explaining his disappearance, along with revealing how the other 14 predators vanished. Judy and Nick, however, accidentaly mistake the wolves for the "night howlers" Manchas mentioned. leads to Lionheart's arrest and Bellwether becoming Mayor of Zootopia, much to her delight. Judy is hailed as a hero, and a press conference is held at the ZPD. When it is time, Bellwether calls her over to the podium. By accident, and to Bellwerher's advantage, Hopps suggests that thanks to their biology, predators may be reverting back to "their primitive, savage ways." When the press rains questions down on her, Bellwether escorts her off the podium, and states that no more questions are to be asked since time is up. As the number of savage incidents rose to 27, the fear generated at the press conference eventually explodes into a citywide panic and wave of open prejudice against predators.
One day, Mayor Bellwether asks for both Chief Bogo and Officer Hopps to come to her office. She offers for Judy to be the public face of the Zootopia Police Department since the prey population not only trusts her, but views her as a hero. She turns down the offer, having felt that her comments at the press conference led directly to the citywide anti-predator prejudice, and goes as far as to remove her badge, thinking that she doesn't deserve it. Before leaving, she thanks both of them for the opportunity.
Two to three months after the press conference, Judy overhears from her parents and a reformed Gideon Grey that night howlers can turn any mammal who consumes it savage. Reaching an epiphany with this new information, she rushes back to Zootopia, making up with Nick by apologizing to him prior to the two of them interrogating Duke Weaselton (whom Judy caught on her second day of being a meter maid stealing night howler bulbs from a flower shop) with help from Mr. Big. They discover that the night howlers are meant for Doug, the ram sniping the predators with the night howler serum. They still the subway car he is working in as evidence to present to the ZPD, with two rams, Woolter and Jesse, alerting Bellwether about the situation. It is then that she decides to take matters into her own hands.
Just as Judy and Nick race through the Natural History Museum towards the ZPD with a briefcase containing a dart gun and night howler pellets, Bellwether, along with two corrupt ZPD rams, arrive. She politely asks for the evidence, mentioning that she is proud of Judy's work, only for Hopps to ask how she knew where they were. The Mayor asks once again for the case, but Judy and Nick, both now suddenly suspicious of Bellwether, back away and decide to take the case to the ZPD instead. However, at the exit is a third corrupt ZPD ram, ready to strike. The pair quickly conclude Bellwether is the real mastermind behind the savage attacks plaguing Zootopia, and decide to run off.
Realizing that they figured it out, Dawn finally reveals her true nature to the audience by ordering the ZPD rams to go after the two, with Judy accidentally cutting her leg on a tusk. Nick helps the both of them hide as Bellwether creepily calls for Judy to come on out. The two debate over what to do with the crucial evidence before Bellwether tries to goad Judy into joining her because not only does the former view prey as "underestimated" and "underappreciated," but also that "prey outnumber predators 10 to 1." Upon seeing what she thinks is Judy's shadow behind a pillar, Bellwether has a ram go check it out as she continues trying to convince Judy join her side. When the ram checks, both Judy and Nick are revealed to be gone.
Upon hearing metallic clanging, it is revealed that the pair are making a final attempt to escape, and orders another ram to go after them. The ram knocks them both into a pit-like exhibit, causing Nick to drop the case and allowing for Bellwether to reclaim the weapon. She states Judy should have "stayed on the carrot farm," with Hopps asking if she will kill her. Bellwether replies that Nick will do just that before suddenly shooting a night howler pellet into his neck, unaware that the pellets have been switched out with blueberries.
Nick seemingly begins to go savage as Bellwether fakes a call to the police, stating a fox has "gone savage" in the Natural History Museum, and that Officer Hopps was down; she urges them to hurry. When Judy tries to urge Nick to fight it, Bellwether merely answers that "...preds are just biologically predisposed to be savages;" she says this just as Nick finishes "turning savage." As Nick fakes chasing after Judy, the latter voices her conclusion that the criminal plot involved prey mammals fearing their predator counterparts in order for Bellwether to remain Mayor of Zootopia, to which she replies, "Yeah, pretty much." Hoops fires back that her plan will fail, secretly activating her carrot pen voice recorder, but Bellwether clearly is confident that "Fear always works!", and that she wouldn't mind darting every predator in the city to ensure that.
After Nick supposedly kills Judy, the two reveal that they tricked Belleether into revealing her plot. However, she angrily reveals that since she easily framed Lionheart, she could do the same to the both of them, stating that, "It's my word against yours." Depsite the threat, Judy plays back her recording of Bellwether's confession: "And I'll dart every predator in Zootopia to keep it that way." Realizing that she needs to make a quick escape, she backs away from the exhibit and tries to run off, only for her and her henchrams to be surrounded by ZPD officers, all of whom overheard the confession.
With her crimes finally exposed, Bellwether is next seen through footage obtained by the Zootopia News Network, being led to prison in an orange jumpsuit with a look of anger on her face.
She is seen two more times during the end credits: once while her inmates enjoy a live broadcast of Gazelle singing "Try Everything," much to her annoyance, and a final time when one of her inmates touches her wool, causing her to angrily swat their hand away before continuing to watch the broadcast.