Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Bellwether Detail In Zootopia That Means More Than You Think

When making Disney's "Zootopia," the team went all in on the details for their talking, clothes-wearing animals. Each mammal is carefully crafted from the way they walk to their relative size to their individual hairs (per Engadget), but the movie is also jam-packed with Easter eggs, including one accessory hiding in plain sight around the neck of our dear villain Bellwether.

Dawn Bellwether (Jenny Slate) is Zootopia's assistant mayor, a tiny sheep compared to her lion boss, but she is chronically overlooked and underestimated. Zootopia may look perfect from afar, as a home to all kinds of mammals — big and small, predator and prey, jungle-dwellers and tundra-lovers — but the different species harbor biases and prejudices against each other. The city's first bunny police officer, Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), isn't taken seriously at her new job, while fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) faces distrust around every corner.

Amidst this dynamic, Bellwether sees an ally in Judy, but turns out to be the perfect villain to Judy's hero. She seems sweet at first, but once all the pieces come together, it's revealed that Bellwether has orchestrated a devious scheme to increase tensions and fear among the citizens of Zootopia. The bell around her neck ties it all together — here's why.

Her bell necklace hints at her true character

In every one of her scenes, Bellwether wears a small bell necklace that actually has a meaning linked to her name. Shepherds would put a bell around the neck of one member of the flock, designating that sheep as the "bellwether." Rather than just being a cute last name, the word's roots tell its story: Between the parts bell and wether, the first is self-explanatory while the latter is a term for a castrated ram. As for the bellwether's role, some sources on Merriam-Webster explain it as the leader of the flock, while others say the bell serves simply as an indicator of the flock's location for the shepherd.

Nowadays, the word "bellwether" is used for someone who takes initiative or for something that indicates a trend. Also according to Merriam Webster, it's often used when writing about politics — particularly midterm elections — which makes it an especially fitting name for the "Zootopia" character. After framing Mayor Lionheart (J.K. Simmons) for responsibility over the savage predators, Bellwether becomes mayor herself and surrounds herself with ram guards. She certainly takes initiative, leading her own flock of sheep in their evil plan to turn the prey animals against their neighbors. 

She's a bellwether in both meanings of the word, but her reign of terror doesn't last long. In the end, Judy and Nick outsmart her and reveal her true nature to the citizens of Zootopia, ousting her from power.