The core of the story is Judy’s journey from naiveté to realizing the widespread prejudice against predators isn’t a thing of the past, and exists within herself. After Judy and Nick recover all the missing mammals, she asks him to be her partner, giving him the carrot pen-slash-recorder she’d used as leverage to make him work on the case. It’s a sweet moment, but quickly turns sour when Judy says during the press conference that the predators’ evolutionary history is making them turn savage. In that moment, Nick is faced with the same prejudice he’s been living with all his life, only it’s now coming from his friend. She’s been carrying fox repellent this whole time, but her words prove that she still harbors bias against him.
“We wanted Judy to see how discrimination was occurring and then fall prey to it herself,” one of the film’s directors, Rich Moore, told Creative Screenwriting. After her quick judgment at the press conference, the city becomes increasingly hostile against predators, making Judy realize her mistake is hurting mammals.
“Judy Hopps is this wonderful, good-hearted character, director Byron Howard told Slashfilm. “She wants to help people but she has a flaw that she doesn’t realize … It’s a maturity story, she gets to grow in the story — she sees stuff in herself that she didn’t realize was there before.”
Judy’s key moment of growth comes when she acknowledges her ignorance and apologizes to Nick. The end of “Zootopia” doesn’t try to pretend that exposing Bellwether’s plot fixed everything, but it’s hopeful: “We all make mistakes,” Judy says at Nick’s graduation. “No matter what type of animal you are … try to make the world a better place. Look inside yourself and recognize that change starts with you.”