Voiced by: Ginnifer Goodwin
Film: Disney’s Zootopia
Disney characters are always incredibly memorable, and that’s especially the case for animals. As much as we love princesses and princes and everything in between, talking animals (or toys) bring some of the most riveting and relatable stories. As one of 275 siblings, Zootopia’s Judy Hopps is a bunny with a vision set on trying to rid the world of the bullies who prey on those smaller than them. Small but mighty, not because of outward strength but because of her indescribable resilience to keep going. “I don’t know when to quit,” she says earlier in the animated film, and nothing is more accurate than that.
And with animated characters, voice actors do an excellent job of selling emotions. It’s why Ginnifer Goodwin is the perfect person to voice a small but mighty bunny with a vision. In the same way that she uses warmth and fire to create a beautifully multi-faceted character in Once Upon A Time’s Snow White, that’s much of what we see with Judy Hopps and more. Plus, Shakira’s “Try Everything,” as the film’s central anthem, does an extraordinary job of making the story one that’s going to be profoundly memorable in the grand scheme of things.
Judy Hopps and the Strength in Trying
As a film, Zootopia relies on stereotypes to properly showcase how growth needs to occur by looking inward. Judy might have visions of being a protector against bullies, but she harbors her own hesitations about foxes because of their stereotypes, contradicting her understanding of bunny stereotypes. And thus, part of what makes Judy tiny but mighty isn’t her resilience but the choice to see beyond what Nick Wilde, a fox, presents to the world. Judy’s decision to grow and her mistakes are thus a tremendous part of her strength.
Judy Hopps is a trier—that’s what her parents call her, and that’s what the story makes us consistently see through every decision she makes. And amidst it all, Judy Hopps is complex and flawed. That’s part of the relatability despite the detail that she’s a rabbit, and those of us watching are, well…humans. She doesn’t always get things right, including her job on the first day, which requires giving out parking tickets—a moment of pride resulting in receiving one herself due to an expired meter. She wants to see the best in the world, but even her prejudice results in a careless speech upon locking up the wrong people.
The fact that Judy makes this mistake and temporarily loses Nick as a friend because she believes that the predatory animals are more at risk of succumbing to the poison is what’s necessary for her to grow into a better version of herself. In losing Nick’s trust and going back home to Bunnyburrow, Judy comes to the understanding that she can’t help people by believing that she firmly understands everything there is to know. It’s easy to want to leave home to follow big dreams with the firm belief that you can do it, but it’s imperative to comprehend that the world is messy, and the moment she learns this, she becomes a better officer.
“Real life is messy. We all have limitations. We all make mistakes, which means hey, glass half full. We all have a lot in common, and the more we try to understand one another, the more exceptional each of us will be. But we have to try.”
Judy’s ambitions are one of the significant reasons why it’s so precious to have a character like her in Disney. How she brings to light the detail that size doesn’t matter is one of the most impressive traits about her character because, often, small people allow themselves to feel smaller. We aren’t spectacular like giraffes and gazelles—we’re invisible sometimes. But that doesn’t mean that we’re the only people experiencing whatever we think we are because the world is too big for that. How the animal kingdom in Zootopia represents the real world reflects the idea that if the entire system is corrupt, it doesn’t matter how many people of color join the police force. (Writer’s Note: Zootopia might’ve been released before we were having more of these conversations, but it’s imperative to discuss this here, and I hope I do a proper job honoring it.)
Judy Hopps decides to become a cop to make the world better, but that’s not enough to make a difference. When the system is racist and corrupt, healing must start from the root—a cleanup from deep within. The law needs to align with the beliefs of equality in a way that Zootopia scratches the surface as best as it can. Still, at the very least, Judy understanding her role in everything is essential to showcase that human beings (or, in this case, bunnies) all have a lot to learn. And learning doesn’t end out of academia or when we’re old enough to leave our small town, but it needs to be a constant part of our day to day to lives to look inward toward how we could improve.
She’s an admirable bunny, not for what she accomplishes, but for all the things she learns along the way when her mistakes bite and come after her. She’s better when she looks inward and understands that she harbors reservations against foxes and predatory animals, even when she believes in an idealized utopia like Zootopia. Judy’s growth is tied directly to her mistakes which gorgeously shows that changes are always possible when people are willing to do the right thing. And in Judy’s case, doing the right thing means understanding herself to understand others better.
Optimism can be tricky at times, and toxic positivity is also something to take note of. But Zootopia rewires both conceptions beautifully through Judy Hopps by allowing her to be a messy character whose growth comes from disarray. It’s why her positivity is believable and why it’s clear that despite everything she’s seen, she can still believe that there will be ways to fix it with people who try their best to make the world a better place. She’s also darn smart, and I love her a little more for that.