Jane Merliah Willoughby is the tritagonist of the 2020 Netflix computer-animated film The Willoughbys, based on the children's book of the same name by Lois Lowry. She is the cheerful middle child of the Willoughby children with a passion for singing and the sister of Tim Willoughby and Barnaby A and Barnaby B Willoughby. Like her brothers, Jane wishes for a new life without their neglectful parents Walter "Father" and Helga "Mother" Willoughby's interference. Unlike Tim, Barnaby A and Barnaby B, she takes a much friendlier liking to Linda the Nanny, and eventually convinces her brothers to trust her.
She was voiced by pop singer Alessia Cara in her animated feature film debut.
Prior to the birth of her and her brothers Tim, Barnaby A and Barnaby B, the Willoughbys were actually a great family full of courage, determination, and hope. But once Walter "Father" and Helga "Mother" Willoughby gave birth to their four children after getting married, that all went away, especially since the two aforementioned parents never cared for their children whatsoever.
Jane is a slender young Willoughby girl with long red hair that flows down to her waistline. Her attire consists of a dark green dress with holes in it resembling flowers and a white frilled collar, black shoes, and roundish glasses.
Jane first appears in the movie alongside her three brothers Tim, Barnaby A and Barnaby B, where they are all looking at portraits of their family's previous generations. Jane is first seen being silenced by Tim while singing, and then she asks why they are looking at the portraits on the wall, to which Tim replies, "because, Jane, we are Willoughbys". Later that night, the siblings all watch their parents Walter "Father" and Helga "Mother" Willoughby eat meatloaf and broccoli together, without sharing any with their children. Jane states she is so hungry she just wants to eat her own tongue, and comes up with two "What if?" scenarios to steal the food, but Tim tells her that they have to wait, only for his stomach to rumble like crazy, causing him to go into the dining room and ask for some food, much to his parents' shock. While this is happening, Jane steals the parents' plates of broccoli, glasses of wine, and even the wine bottle for some reason, and then Jane eats the entire rest of the meatloaf, which gets Tim in trouble and forced to spend the night in the coal bin, much to his displeasure.
Meanwhile, Jane is trying to sing upstairs, but is silenced by her parents while doing so. During this moment, the Barnaby twins come up to her and explain that they heard a noise outside, to which Jane believes it is a beast. She and the twins then head out to the front gate, to which Jane opens it and grabs the box that is sitting in front of the gate, pulls off the lid, and then gets attacked by whatever was inside the box, causing her to scream in fright. This awakens Tim, who sneaks up to the library undetected and wonders what is going on. He then finds out that the "beast" Jane brought in is actually an orphaned baby. The two then get into a minor argument about who gets the baby, only for it to escape into the living room and frighten the parents. Having lost all composure, Walter and Helga Willoughby kick their children all out and order them not to return until the baby is gone. While Tim wants to simply get rid of the baby, Jane believes they should find her a home, prompting the siblings to leave their home and wander into the mean streets of the city. The four of them follow a rainbow to the very end, where it turns out to be coming from the chimney of a candy factory owned by a joyous, but lonely man named Commander Melanoff. Tim puts the baby, which they name Ruth, inside a box, but Jane rings the doorbell, which causes Commander Melanoff himself to come out of his factory and finds Ruth in his box, and takes her inside.
As the siblings are walking home, Jane hopes what they did was right, to which Tim believes that Ruth's life will be great, like their family's once was. Wanting to do whatever it takes to have a great family, including disposing of their own parents, the Willoughby children see a travel agency brochure, and inspired by its example, prompt themselves to make one of their own from the "Reprehensible Travel Agency", to which they then send down to their parents, who guillibly fall for it and leave their children home alone, but not before hiring a nanny to watch over them while they're away on an adventure. The siblings then embrace their parent-free life and have as much fun as possible around the house, but Jane and the Barnabys soon quickly become hungry, and rely on Tim, now man of the house, to give them food. However, as Tim does not know how to cook, he ends up serving them a plastic lobster from the wall, which quickly splatters him with paint as it is impossible to cut through due it being both plastic and slippery. Jane gets up from the table and leaves, to which Tim tries to stop her from doing so. Just then, the nanny their parents hired, named Linda, comes into the door with an umbrella, claiming to have "no qualifications but a cheery disposition". She manages to win Jane over for their shared ability to sing, but Tim and the Barnabys don't trust her one bit, and go upstairs to the library to plan to get rid of her, with the Barnabys suggesting a device known as a "Nana-pult", which gets rid of unwanted nannies by launching them outside the window. Although Tim is impressed, he believes the idea will never work, and while he is saying this, Jane comes in with Linda, having given her a tour of the house, and Linda then plops down in the Nana-pult's "Nanny cup", to which Linda then dubs the Barnabys Barnaby A and Barnaby B, causing Jane to be able to tell them apart more easily. Linda then pulls the lever of the Nana-pult, accidentally launching Tim, now the only one distrustful of Linda, outside the window. Linda then feeds Jane, Barnaby A and Barnaby B oatmeal in the dining room, which Tim refuses to partake in.
This causes Linda to feel disrespected, and she decides to put Tim in a time-out, but he mistakes it for going back into the coal bin again. Linda soon realizes of the Willoughby children's parents' neglectful nature, and finds out that they gave the orphaned baby Ruth to Commander Melanoff. The Willoughbys and Linda then all head to Commander Melanoff's candy factory to get her back, to which Linda manages to save her from a candy crusher and exposes the Willoughbys' doing of giving her to Commander Melanoff. They all then head into the factory's kitchen, where Commander Melanoff feeds Ruth oatmeal, causing Linda to allow Ruth to stay with him, to which Jane says that the factory is the "perfect home". She and the Barnabys A and B then hug Commander Melanoff, who gives Tim one of his chocolate bars that he later shares with Linda on the bus ride home. As the bus is bringing them back to their house, Jane starts singing again while chewing on some old gum she found under her seat. The siblings then arrive back at the house, to which Tim says he enjoyed it very much.
Jane is next seen sitting on one of the living room chairs, to which Tim then walks in holding Linda's cellphone, informing his siblings that their parents are alive, and are planning to sell the house so they can continue to their final destination: the Unclimbable Alps mountain range in Sveetzerlünd. Jane thinks Tim is acting weird, but Tim convinces them otherwise, and to make matters worse, real estate agent Irene Holmes shows up to sell the house the following day. That night, Jane and the Barnabys A and B, while Tim calls the Department of Orphan Services to have Linda removed from their custody, set up booby traps around the house for the sale the next day. The next day, the Willoughby children manage to successfully kick out every potential buyer possible, except the "perfect family", who are unaffected. Jane claims that this family is too perfect for them to stop them, but the perfect family flees the house in fear after something scares them in the library. The siblings head up there, and are confronted by the "Willoughby Beast", who turns out to be Linda wearing a costume. She explains that she wanted to help them keep their house, and truly does care about them regardless of who she works for. The siblings, including Tim, all hug her with love, but their moment is ended by the Department of Orphan Services' arrival, to which the lead agent Alice Vernakov identifies Linda as an orphan they tried and failed to give to a family. Jane says they want her to be part of their family, but Vernakov plays Tim's phone call to their organization, causing Linda to leave the Willoughbys' house with a broken heart. Jane then berates Tim for his selfish behavior and bossy attitude, causing the siblings to get separated, with Jane being forced to live in a suburban foster home with a family that loves music, much to her dismay.
Later on, after Linda finds Tim's hat on the road and breaks him out of the Department of Orphan Services' correctional facility, the two gather up the rest of the siblings, to which Tim makes up with Jane after all he's done. Now on the run from orphan services authority figures, Tim and the others agree that the only way to fix this is to get their parents back. Everyone is in agreement, even though they do not initially like the plan at first. They all then head to Commander Melanoff's candy factory and build a giant dirigible airship out of candy to get to Sveetzerlünd. While Linda and Commander Melanoff make oatmeal inside the kitchen, Tim and his siblings steal the dirigible and leave to go get their parents back themselves, with Jane wondering if she will be mad that they did this. Once arrived in Sveetzerlünd, the siblings split up to find their parents, but have no luck as everything they uncover is a tree. They then hear their parents' kiss, which Jane claims to be still warm, and manage to successfully thaw them out from the ice. During this moment, it seems like the parents are going to actually care for their children, based on the background scene, but they just push their children away and steal their dirigible, to which it deflates due to their lack of knowledge on driving, and it falls to the ground, taking the parents down with it. Jane wonders if they survived it, but Tim denies any possibility. As the siblings are starting to succumb to the cold weather, Jane sings a demo rendition of her song "I Choose" to keep the siblings together, with the snow then covering them up. Just as they are about to freeze to death, Linda and Commander Melanoff show up to save them, only to arrive too late as their parents are already claimed dead, making their children orphans for real. Tim, however, suggests that they become a family, to which everyone agrees. They all head back home using Commander Melanoff's candy suit as a means of flight over the mountains.
Back at the factory, the Willoughby children all eat oatmeal and "Melanoff Meatloaf" for dinner, to which Jane and the others laugh at Ruth having a meat mustache. They all then put up a portrait of each other together on the wall, finally believing they are living like a normal family.
Unbeknownst to them, their parents did in fact survive the crash, and are now eating candy from the remains of the destroyed dirigible. However, they are then presumably devoured by a shark.
- When Alessia Cara was recording a demo version of "I Choose" (Jane's recurring song throughout the movie), she suffered from a sinus infection. She apologized to the filmmakers for messing up the recordings, but was surprised to find out that they loved it, as it was used during a scene where the Willoughby children are suffering under the cold weather whilst on top of the Unclimbable Alps mountain range. The demo version subsequently ended up in the finished film.
- A common running gag of Jane's character is her often saying when someone believes something is coming is, "is it more of a some or more of a thing?", as well as her constantly using a "what if?" situation.
- Despite Jane despising her temporary foster family's love of music, Jane herself ironically likes music, as she is seen playing three instruments earlier in the movie at the Willoughby home, specifically a bass violin, a trumpet, and a tambourine.
- Although Jane claims Tim was the reason they got rid of Ruth the orphaned baby, it was technically her idea, as she was the one who found Commander Melanoff's candy factory in the first place. Though she could have been claiming it was Tim's idea because he chose to dispose of her when their parents told them to.