WARNING: Per wiki policy, Spoilers Off applies to Tear Jerker pages. All spoilers will be unmarked.
It wouldn't be a great Disney film if it didn't make you cry, and here's some examples in Zootopia that do just that.
- Judy and Nick both face hardships for the same reason; they are burdened by the roles they have to take and try to become something else. "Change starts with you."
- The film pulls zero punches when it comes to physical bullying. Switching to the P.O.V of their victims, being forced to the ground, nobody around to help the victims get out of it; is it any wonder why Judy and Nick are still traumatized by their respective experiences?
- While also heartwarming the scene beginning where Judy is leaving home and Stu and Bonnie including her brothers and sisters start saying goodbye to her. She at first prepares to leave inside the monorail but suddenly runs up to them and hugs them.
- Seeing Judy as a 9-year-old getting clawed by Gideon is sad, especially the way Judy screamed as he scratched her.
- Gideon taunts Judy, saying "Are you gonna cry, baby bunny?!". Look at Judy's eyes. You can see tears building up in them.
- While also a heartwarming moment, there is this line said by Judy's parents about her dreams of wanting to be a police officer. Keep in mind that Judy heard this when she was little. They know something is up about the other mammals' relationships with bunnies in Zootopia, but they simultaneously support Judy's dream while wanting her to keep her expectations low.Bonnie: It's great to have dreams.Stu: As long as you don't believe in them too much.
- When Judy arrives at her first briefing, Chief Bogo dismisses the arrival of a new recruit as completely unimportant. Judy's clearly hurt, but the general laughter signals she should try to treat it as a joke.
- Judy forcing a smile for her parents during a video chat to let them know everything is the way she always dreamed when in reality her first day in the force ruthlessly crushed all of her expectations. To young adults like her in real life, this can hit very close home.
- As if that's not enough, they were exuberant that she was working in the safe job of Meter Maid, instead of the dangerous job of a "real cop".Judy: (in a stoic and annoyed tone while banging her head against the steering wheel) I am a real cop. I am a real cop. I am a real cop.
- As if that's not enough, they were exuberant that she was working in the safe job of Meter Maid, instead of the dangerous job of a "real cop".
- Funny as the phrase "skunk-butt rug" is, Nick betrayed the trust of a man who took him into his own house and treated him like family, and looks legitimately remorseful and ashamed over it.
- Mr. Big tells Judy and Nick what happened to Mr. Otterton, then reveals his own Jade-Colored Glasses.Judy: Otterton attacked? But he's a sweet little otter.Mr. Big: My child, we may be evolved, but we are still animals.
- When Manchas introduces himself to Nick and Judy, he fearfully explains everything and his injuries, which sounds like he's shaken and petrified.
- After the Manchas attack, when Chief Bogo demands that Judy surrender her badge because of her failure to solve the Otterton case, the look on her face as she reaches up to take off her badge is absolutely heartbreaking.
- Nick's reaction when he realizes that his constant pranks and intentional delays cost Judy her career. Probably because her forced resignation reminded him of his past. It immediately moves into heartwarming when he gives a firm Little "No" to Chief Bogo's command to Judy to turn in her badge, and uses his skill in Exact Words to gain her ten more hours to solve the case, along with a HUGE What the Hell, Hero? to Chief Bogo for giving her an impossible case.
- Nick's childhood is dreadful:
- He is expected to be sneaky, cunning and dishonest ever since he was a child solely because he's a fox. It's made clear in a flashback where his poor mother saved up enough money to get him a Junior Ranger Scout uniform of his own in order to chase his dream of becoming the first predator who joined the Junior Ranger Scouts. He ends up being bullied and forced into a muzzle by his peers made up entirely of prey animals.
- Watching a young Nick break down and burst into tears outside the club by the staircase after tearing off the muzzle. It's clear that that's the moment he stopped being a wide-eyed idealist and accepted the fact that the world wasn't as fair as it should be. To an 8/9-year old, it's a devastating blow. Coupled with the quip he makes about being in the business of conning people since the age of 12, it's hard not to feel bad for the poor guy. The worst part of the above is poor little Nick's confusion. He obviously never saw the bullying]coming, pleads to know what he did wrong and is obviously on the verge of tears
- What's worse is the parallels between Judy's and Nick's backgrounds. They had the same dream of becoming what they wished to despite the hardship of their species. Judy was able to achieve it thanks to the support of her family even though they didn't believe in her. Nick's mother, on the other hand, believed in her son's dreams and ideals but barely had enough money to get him a simple uniform. She couldn't give him the support he needed as much as she wanted to.
- In an early scene, Nick gives Judy a rather effective "The Reason You Suck" Speech about how her optimism isn't going to improve anything. He makes an offhand reference to her "living in a box under a bridge." This is where Judy finds Nick living toward the end when she comes to apologize. He's using what he's experienced in his own life as the basis of this story.
- Subtle bit of Fridge Tear Jerker: Present-day Nick is implied to be homeless and his mother is nowhere to be found. Given that he says he started his cons since he was 12, it means either he ran away from home at that age, or his mother died then, leaving him with nothing. Word of God had to insist that Nick's mom is fine and he knows where she is just to make the scene less depressing.
- After the media conference, Nick snaps at Judy for generalizing all predators as savage. Judy tries to mend her mistake by saying she was just repeating what the doctors that incarcerated the missing citizens were saying, but ultimately fails when Nick asks her if she's afraid of him. Judy goes silent and Nick pretends to threaten her causing Judy to instinctively reach for her fox repellent (to which he reveals he was aware of her possessing since they first met) and confirm his accusation.Nick: 'Clearly there's a biological component'? 'These predators may be reverting back to their primitive savage ways'? Are you serious?Judy: I just stated the facts of the case! I mean it's not like a bunny can go savage.Nick: Right. But a fox could, huh?Judy: Nick, stop it! You're not like them.Nick: (getting angry) Oh, so there's a "them" now?Judy: You know what I mean! You're not that kind of predator.Nick: The kind that needs to be muzzled? The kind that makes you think you need to carry around fox repellant?! Yeah, don't think I didn't notice that little item the first time we met! So look, let me ask you a question! Are you afraid of me? (Judy gets quiet) Do you think I might go nuts? Think I'll go savage? Do you think I might try to... (jumps forward) EAT YOU?! (Judy recoils and reaches for the fox repellant) I knew it. Just when I thought somebody actually believed in me, huh? (hands Judy back the application) Probably best if you don't have a predator as a partner.
- To rub salt in the wound, right after that Judy realizes Nick actually filled out the Employment Application she just gave to him minutes ago. He was more than ready to join the force and become her partner.
- Nick is firm in his belief that you should never let the world know it gets to you, and shrugs off every slur with his customary snark and disinterest. This is the only point in the whole film where he's genuinely angry, and obviously trying not to cry, making it very clear that this really hurt him.
- Before that, Nick sees the muzzled predators and one of them looks scared and ready to cry.
- The worst part of his asking if she's afraid of him? During the Stunned Silence before he presses the point, Judy's nose is visibly twitching in the same manner it had when Gideon was threatening her as a kid.
- Even sadder from Judy's POV. When Nick made the scary angry face and extended his claws at her she backs away from him and reaches for her fox spray because she was probably remembering when Gideon attacked her when they were kids! She was afraid that Nick might hurt her as well he doesn't but still! Gideon attacking Judy must've scared her very badly enough to bring fox spray with her in case another predator attack her she might have a mild fear of predators and claws. She never told Nick about why she brought the spray with her making it even worse for their friendship.
- In the pre-climax, Judy returns to Nick to seek his aid. Nick coldly ignores her (not even bothering to look at her). When Nick begins to walk away from her, Judy desperately tries to make amends to the point that she breaks down in tears:Judy: Wait, listen! I know you'll never forgive me. And I don't blame you. I wouldn't forgive me either. (Nick stops walking away at this statement, but keeps his back to her) I was ignorant and irresponsible and small-minded. But predators shouldn't suffer because of my mistakes. I have to fix this. But I can't do it without you. (Nick still doesn't say anything) And after we're done (Sobbing), you can hate me, and that'll be fine, because I was a horrible friend, and I hurt you. And you can walk away knowing you were right all along. I really am just a dumb bunny.
- Special mention goes to Ginnifer Goodwin genuinely sounding like someone trying and failing not to cry. Especially when she starts crying into Nick's chest. This tumblr post goes more indepth about this scene where it turns out that she actually started crying while reading out Judy's lines.
- And while Judy says that she doesn't blame Nick if he decides not to forgive her, the fact that she broke down crying as soon as she says it shows that she wants him to more than anything else, and the realization that he probably won't is what pushes her over the edge from tearful to Inelegant Blubbering. On the bright side, it makes Nick choosing to forgive her all the sweeter.
- Gazelle's heartbreaking interview, interspersed with scenes of Zootopia quickly breaking down, protests turning violent, and people attacking each other on the street. It really hits home for anyone that's ever seen their own cities or communities torn apart by serious issues... most especially ones that haven't gotten better since.Gazelle: Zootopia is a unique place. It's a crazy, beautiful diversity where we celebrate our differences. This is not the Zootopia I know. The Zootopia I know is better than this. We don't just blindly assign blame. We don't know why these attacks keep happening, but it is irresponsible to label all predators as savages. We cannot let fear divide us. Please... give me back the Zootopia I love.
Pig: Go back to the forest, predator!Cheetah: I'm from the savannah!
- Related to this, right after the scene where Nick and Judy's friendship is broken, she rushes after him only to be blocked by the frantic reporters. What's the first question she's asked? "Did that fox attack you?" And when Judy says no, he was her friend, they respond, "So we aren't even safe from our friends anymore?" It really drives home how terrified everyone is, and how easy it is for people to turn on each other out of that fear. (Make note of the expressions in the crowd at the press conference when Judy makes her thoughtless comments—not just from the prey Zootopians, but the predators.)
- During the rally, Judy is seen struggling to calm the predators and prey at the peace rally. While they are starting to have a heated and quite realistic argument.
- The monorail scene during the interview where Judy sees a rabbit quietly pulling her young daughter away from a tiger due to fear of the outbreak. And you can't even really blame her, because predators are snapping and attacking prey without warning, and who would want to take the chance with their child?
- What's worse? While the tiger was focused on his iPad device, his eyebrows lowered when the rabbit mother did that. He wasn't looking directly at them, but he still was aware enough that he was being shunned and trying to ignore it.
- Mrs. Otterton's reaction to seeing her husband Emmitt feral, on all fours, and leashed to a post in quarantine, also during Gazelle's interview.Mrs. Otterton: That's not my Emmitt.
- She is seen looking at him through the glass when suddenly Judy shows up behind her and puts her hand on her in despair.
- This scene comes across as especially harsh to anyone who has had to watch a loved one's mental state deteriorate in real life.
- Throughout the movie, and her life, there have been many factors that serve as foils to make Judy quit her dreams of being a Zootopian cop. Her parents' skepticism and doubt as an average bunny normally doesn't go for that kind of job, but it doesn't get to her. A fox bully named Gideon attacked her and warned her she will never be anything more than a scared bunny, but she refused to give up. She has serious trouble in the police academy, but worked hard to not only pass but excel. When entering ZPD, Bogo appoints her to parking duty instead of the investigation of the missing Zootopians, but keeps her optimism, for a while at least. She is fired for a non-procedure arrest and volunteering to help in an investigation without her chief's permission, but Bogo is forced to allow her assistance; only giving her 48 hours to solve the most recent disappearance case or face resignation. The time limit itself is already pressured enough without the fact that because this is indeed a recent case, there are no leads or witnesses attached to it, except for Nick who was with him for a short while. Beforehand, when first encountering Nick after being hustled, he reminds her that the city isn't as glamorous as she makes it out to be, and its harsh reality will crush her dreams and make her give up and return home. It's a real tearjerker to see Judy's constant struggle to rise above everyone's expectations, but none more so than when she actually does quit, even after seemingly successfully solving the missing citizens case, because of one factor she overlooked: her own ignorance, which after an interview concerning the case, costs her friendship with Nick, and throws Zootopia into fear.
- Due to causing the fear against predatory animals from her interview, Judy, feeling guilt-ridden, decides to quit her lifelong dream, feeling that she tore apart the city, rather than help it as a cop is supposed to do, as she sadly returns to live with her family at their farm to sell carrots, as Nick predicted early on. This of course saddens Chief Bogo, who has come to accept Judy. Luckily, this doesn't last due to an Eureka Moment.Judy: I came here to make the world a better place, but I think I broke it.
Chief Bogo: Don't give yourself so much credit, Hopps. The world has always been broken. That's why we need good cops... like you.
Judy: With all due respect, sir, a good cop is supposed to serve and protecthelp the city, not tear it apart. I don't deserve this badge.
[Judy takes off her badge]
Chief Bogo: Hopps...?
Bellwether: Judy, you've worked so hard to get here. It's what you wanted since you were a kid. You can't quit.
Judy (putting her badge on the desk): Thank you for the opportunity.
[Judy walks out, downcast]
- Could double as Fridge Brilliance, but when the scene ends, the camera lingers on a very tight shot of Judy's badge on the desk. The badge has "Trust, Integrity, Bravery" as ZPD's motto. The word closest to the camera — the only one sharply focused — is "Integrity" — a trait Judy is exhibiting during this very scene, and entirely lacking in then-mayor Bellwether — who is sitting right in front of her. But we won't know that about Bellwether until the last reel.
- There's also Bogo's somewhat backhanded attempt to reassure her: "Don't give yourself too much credit...the world was already broken." It's a very sobering statement, and even more upsetting in a world where some feel as if the country/world/human race is beyond saving. You have to wonder, just what Bogo could have seen during his career that would make him think that way; maybe he wasn't always the stereotypical Da Chief. The society we see in the film has no shortage of problems to begin with, but the idea that there might be worse things lurking further under the surface is even more upsetting.
- While she did turn out to be a villain, Bellwether is shown to be genuinely sad and shocked when Judy quits her dream.
- Clawhauser telling Judy that he's no longer the front desk officer because of the current climate of fear against predators. His explanation in no way blames her or the people in charge of moving him, as he just quietly resigns to his fate. It's very sad since Clawhauser throughout the film is mostly happy and optimistic but during this scene he looks so broken. Special points go to the huge contrast from the bubbly exuberance typically found in his voice and how subdued and defeated it is in this scene. Judy's expression of unpleasant surprise when she sees him packing his things, as well as her shocked My God, What Have I Done? reaction to his explanation, makes it even sadder and to finish it off, there's a subtle but noticeable flush around Clawhauser's eyes. Clearly, he's been crying. Additionally, Bogo, who no doubt recently had to deliver the bad news to Clawhauser, appears to be actively avoiding any eye contact or interaction with him, his expression much more serious than it is in either the previous scene or the next one.
- When Judy returns home after the media conference, she can be seen working at her parents' farm. She looks so gloomy and depressed as a result. At one point her parents ask her what is wrong and she tells that she's fine. Her parents can tell she isn't happy since her ears have been drooping the entire time.
- Judy struggling to run with Nick while trying to hide from Bellwether and her guards after getting her leg cut.
- As detailed above, Nick's flashback to being horrifically bullied as a child. Considering it's Disney, you'd expect some All the Other Reindeer type stuff, mean but in an ordinary way. What we get instead is downright brutal to watch, especially since part of it is "shot" in first-person POV — we're put in Nick's shoes, seeing it exactly as he did, and it's awful. If you were ever bullied, that scene probably dug up a lot of memories.
- Worse, when Judy accidentally implies that all predators are inherently "savage", Nick has flashbacks to the bullying. Nick says he never shows that anything got to him, but it's made abundantly clear that a child being hazed, forced into a muzzle, and laughed out of a club when he just wanted to fit in was probably pretty traumatic, especially since he was so young when it happened. Is it any wonder the guy decided "Then Let Me Be Evil?"
- The scene when Bellwether poisons Nick. Turning him into a savage beast who nearly kills Judy. Of course, it turns out they were faking. But its horrific to see, a sly, intelligent creature reduced to a feral state. And the thought of Judy being ripped apart by her friend. God...
- For a bit of Fridge Sadness, watch the movie up to Nick and Judy's heart-to-heart on the Sky Tram. Now re-watch everything from their first meeting up to that point again. Notice the times when she lost her temper and berated him and he just shrugged it off. It's unlikely that Judy said anything Nick hadn't heard before, but one has to wonder - how many times did her words cut him up inside and he just didn't show it?
- The scene with Nick feeling Bellwether's wool is largely Played for Laughs, but there's a bit of Fridge Sadness to the line, "Sheep never let me get this close." It's another reminder that Nick has been ostracized due to his species for most of his life.
Meta and out of canon
- Director Byron Howard's memorial tweet for Brian Bedford, the voice of Robin Hood, who passed away in January 2016. The tweet notes how the film gave Howard the inspiration for Zootopia.
- Couple of deleted scenes from the version that focused on Nick that were shown in this documentary about the film development. It's no wonder why they made the final product considerably Lighter and Softer.
- Nick being arrested (at this point he's a child) and taken away from his father just because he "threatened" a pair of lemming bankers.
- From the version that dealt with collars: a polar bear cub named Morris being given the shock collar by his father, and his reaction (plus the father's reaction) when it gives him the first shock.
Koslov: "With this collar, Zootopia welcomes you. With this collar, Zootopia celebrates you. With this collar, Zootopia... accepts you."
- To expand on that: At this stage of the film, predators received their collar as part of their "Taming Day", somewhere around their fifth birthday, generally the biggest blowout the parents can afford. In this scene, which would have introduced then-Lieutenant Hopps to the realities of the system, we see Morris, the son of Koslov (the giant polar bear we see carrying Mr. Big around in the finished film) receiving his collar from his father. Morris is so happy — he's "grown up", he's becoming part of the grown-up world — that he starts jumping up and down excitedly. Koslov tries to warn him, to calm him down, but he can't talk too loudly without his own collar going off. And then, the happy little polar bear cub gets a very literal shock — and goes toddling back to his father with a scared "What did I do?" expression that's painful even in the scene's unfinished state.
- A note in the art book says that Morris's fur was intentionally made cleaner than Koslov's. "The filth of the world hadn't gotten to him yet."
- Another deleted scene shows Judy introducing Nick to her parents and family. Stu and Bonnie eventually find out that she wasn't actually a cop and learns that she's a meter maid. Stu reacts by scolding his daughter in a hurt tone if voice and even Judy starts to feel pretty upset until Nick defends her.
- The Alternate scene where Judy returns from her first day of being a meter maid. In this version, Judy feels homesick and decides to live chat with her parents in the phone. Unlike the actual film, Judy is mostly talking with her mother about how her first day at Zootopia was like but Bonnie then gives words of encouragement about things can be much better and is actually proud of her being a meter maid. Judy responds by feeling a bit optimistic that she will someday become a cop. The scene ends with her hugging a bunny plush reminding her of time and falls asleep. This version also comes across heartwarming.
- In yet another deleted scene from the shock collar version, a badly beaten up Nick goes to a free clinic and is informed that his collar will need to come off temporarily so that his neck can be examined. The doctor and nurse proceed to do so, treating it like a bomb about to go off, while Nick just sits there apathetically. But the second the collar falls away, Nick touches his bare neck in disbelief, then begins to rub it as his expression morphs into the most peaceful, blissful one imaginable. He drifts off into an Imagine Spot in which he's running through the long grass in the sunlight, happy and free...just in time for the doctor to snap his collar on again. It's absolutely heartwrenching.
- The youtuber who posted the above video took the liberty of piecing together an extended version that manages to be even sadder. In this cut, Nick is running alongside other predators in his imagine spot, before they all get on a rollercoaster together(keep in mind that the collar triggers with any extreme emotion, so this is something that the predators wouldn't be able to do normally). When the collar snaps back on, Nick asks for five more seconds without it. The doctor refuses, but notes that "If I had a dollar for every time I heard that..." which Nick despondently finishes with "Yeah, you'd be the richest mammal in Zootopia...". The overall implication is that Nick's experience when the collar comes off is far from unique, and it makes the concept even more depressing when compared to those brief tastes of emotional freedom.
- Also in the documentary, Byron Howard and Josie Trinidad discussing their personal experiences as a gay man and an Asian woman respectively, wanting to be accepted and supported.
- As a capstone, the fact that the film's main theme is about diversity, tolerance, and overcoming prejudice...in a year when, increasingly, the real world seems to be collapsing back into nationalism, white supremacy, hate crimes, police brutality, and worse. From Gazelle's saddened speech about this no longer being the Zootopia she knew and loved, to Bogo's comment about the world already being broken, to Bellwether's smug declaration as to the usefulness of fear, to Judy's heartfelt ending speech about trying to understand one another, trying to make the world a better place, and change beginning with you...it all rather sounds to the cynic and pessimist like a plea that came too late, and to the idealist and optimist is proof of how far we still have to go.