|“||These lands belong to Scar.||„|
|~ Zira's most famous line.|
|“||Lions over all. No animal is more grand.||„|
|~ Zira singing Lions Over All.|
|“||A symphony of death, oh my. That's my lullaby.||„|
|~ Zira singing about how the war with the Pridelanders will go.|
Zira is a major antagonist in Disney's The Lion King franchise, specifically being the main antagonist of Disney's 1998 animated film The Lion King II: Simba's Pride (the sequel to Disney's 32nd full-length animated feature film The Lion King), the main antagonist of the The Lion Guard (which serves as a midquel to the film) episode "Lions of the Outlands" and later the posthumous overarching antagonist for the series finale "Return to the Pride Lands".
In The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, Zira was voiced by the late Suzanne Pleshette, who also played Dr. Rachel Walters in A Twist of the Knife, and Yubaba in Spirited Away. In The Lion Guard, she is voiced by Nika Futterman, who also played Asajj Ventress in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Silhouette in Destroy All Humans!, and Catwoman in Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
Zira is a thin tan lioness with a darker dorsal stripe going down her head. Her eyes are red, but appear blue in certain lights. Like Scar, she has black claws that are always bared and never retracted. Her black nose is angular and and she has a notch of unknown origin in her right ear. She has a wiry grin when she smiles. On her chin she has small tuft of fur, which juts outwards, unlike Scar's, which is inwards.
Zira is unusually rich in spirit, but her soul is steeped in hatred. She cannot come to terms with her past and is even ready to give up her cubs for the sake of revenge. Deep inside though, she genuinely does care for them – like any caring mother, she will defend her children; even mourning for Nuka after he was crushed to death by the logs. However, she will not tolerate failure or disobedience. After Kovu started to fall in love with Kiara, Zira's love for her youngest son ended and since then, she has loathed Kovu for his last decision. She was also subsequently addicted to revenge that when she faced death, she refused support and fell to her demise out of fury.
Zira is also shown to be an extraordinary actress, being able to act kind and understanding in order to sway people to her side. Zira is also a xenophobic racist, as she hates hyenas (even in unawareness that they are who crucified Scar instead of Simba, who she held accountable for, though hyenas are the natural rivals of lions), firmly believing that lions are superior to all of the other animals and must rule them through force and threat therefore. Also, she seems to be somewhat faint-hearted and timid, as she once begged Kion not to use the Roar of the Elders against her and the Outlanders by reminding him that they are his kind, only for an aggravated Kion to use it anyway to drive Zira and her clan away into a termite mound.
Zira's most noticeable trait is her fierce faithfulness to Scar, although many of her fellow lionesses suffered during his reign and nearly starved thanks to the overhunting of the Hyena Clan. Even after his demise, Zira still considered Scar her king and accused Simba of his defeat. Due to her faithfulness, Scar chose Zira's youngest son named Kovu to be his successor. However, after having claimed his rightful place on the throne, Simba exiled Zira and her family from the Pride Lands, due to them still being faithful to Scar. However, although she is willing to do whatever it takes to take over the Pride Lands, it was Zira's love for her family that kept her from becoming just like Scar.
Zira and her three children named Nuka, Vitani and Kovu lived in the Pride Lands's pride during the reign of Scar, who had a close relationship with Zira and told her about the Roar of the Elders (a power that he previously had before losing it due to using it to destroy his fellow Lion Guard members after they refused to help him overthrow his brother Mufasa as King). Zira quickly became Scar's most loyal follower, rallying several lionesses into swearing loyalty to him. As a reward for her loyalty, Scar also named Zira's youngest cub Kovu his successor to the throne.
However, Scar's nephew and the Pride Lands's rightful heir Simba returned to Pride Rock and defeated Scar, knocking him into a pit where he was eaten alive by his betrayed hyena henchmen. When Simba asserted that Scar was never the true King, Zira furiously attacked him. After emerging victorious, Simba, left with no other choice, banished Zira, her children and the other lionesses who were loyal to Scar to the Outlands as punishment. Holding him responsible for Scar's demise, Zira vowed revenge on Simba, swearing that he will fall and that Kovu will become the new King.
Confronting Simba Again
Zira is first seen near the border between the Outlands and The Pride Lands watching Kovu talking to Simba's daughter Kiara. Just then, Simba arrives and steps in front of Kiara and roars at Kovu. Zira comes to Kovu's defense and roars at Simba and prepares to fight him, only to see that he is accompanied by his wife Nala, his friends Timon and Pumbaa and two lionesses. Timon tells Zira to get out of "their" Pride Lands, to which Zira replies "Your Pride Lands?" and roars at Timon. Zira then declares that these belong to Scar. Simba reminds Zira that he banished her from The Pride Lands and tells her and Kovu to get out. Zira tells Simba that Kovu was hand chosen by Scar to follow in his paw prints and become king and that Kovu was also the last born before Simba banished Scar's followers to the Outlands where there is lack of food and little water. Simba is unmoved by Zira's statement and says that she knows the penalty for returning to The Pride Lands. Zira replies that Kovu does not know the penalty and offers Kovu to Simba to face the penalty. However Simba is unwilling to hurt the cub and tells Zira to take Kovu and get out, stating that they are finished here, before picking Kiara. Zira replies that they've barely begun and glares sinisterly at Kiara before picking up Kovu and leaving.
Upon returning to The Outlands, Zira scolds Nuka for not keeping an eye on Kovu, who comes to his brother's defense, stating that he went by himself. Zira questions Kovu on who made them Outsiders and killed Scar, to which Kovu replies that it was Simba. Kovu then says that he thought that he and Kiara could be friends. At first, Zira scoffs at this, but then realizes that if Kovu befriended Kiara, he could earn Simba's trust and be able to kill him. Zira congratulates Kovu and says that he has conniving mind that made Scar so powerful. When Nuka responds in disgust at the statement, Zira snares angrily at him before taking Kovu to bed. Zira states that she can now see the path to their glorious return to power. When Kovu expresses reluctance at taking part in the plan, Zira silences him and says that tomorrow, his training intensifies and sings about her plan through "My Lullaby".
Zira encroaches on the section of the Outlands belonging to a clan of hyenas. Simba's son Kion enters the Outlands, accompanied by Jasiri (who is a member of the hyena clan Zira drove out) and is brought to Zira by Nuka and Kovu, who inform her that Kion is Simba's son and is also told by Jasiri that he is leader of the Lion Guard. Zira welcomes Kion to the Outlands and introduces him to Vitani.
Zira questions Kion on why he does not use the Roar of the Elders on a cloud to give Jasiri water. Confused, Kion roars at a small cloud, which makes it rain, and Zira tells Kion she is familiar with the Roar of the Elders. Taking Kion aside, Zira tells Kion that lions are the best rulers. She tells Kion that using the Roar against other lions would make him lose the roar, and she convinces him to stay with her. But the Outsiders began circling Kion, Zira tells Kion that she once knew someone with the Roar and when he used it against his fellow lions, he lost it, causing Kion to realize that Zira is talking about Scar. Zira tells Kion that she and Scar were close and that he told her about the Roar and says that if it hadn't been for Simba, Scar would still be King. When Kion replies that Scar wasn't the true King, Zira leaves him surrounded by the Outsiders with the choice: being with them or against them, before going to fetch her children.
Later, when Kion is rescued by the Lion Guard, they tell Kion that the reason Scar lost his roar was because it was used for evil and not against lions. As such, Kion angrily confronts Zira with the truth and attempts to use the Roar to blast Zira and her pride away. Zira is horrified by this and attempts to remind Kion fearfully that they're still lions, but Kion angrily ignores her and uses the Roar to blast Zira and her pride (with the exception of Kovu, who dodges the blast before running after his family shortly afterwards) away, leaving them to land near a termite mound, similar to the one depicted in Simba's Pride.
Years later, Zira declares that an adolescent Kovu is ready to carry out the plan and he is accepted into the Pride Lands after saving Kiara from a destructive wildfire (which was started by Nuka and Vitani). It turns out that Zira planned for Nuka and Vitani to start the wildfire in order for Kovu to rescue Kiara to gain Simba's reluctant trust, so that Kovu can lure him into a trap.
However, Kovu starts to fall in love with Kiara, and starts to have second thoughts, even after being told by Simba and Kiara about Scar's true nature, his act of murdering Mufasa and his death by the jaws of Shenzi, Banzai and Ed for his treachery against them. One night, Zira is informed by Vitani that whilst in The Pride Lands, she saw Kovu and Simba together at Pride Rock, but Kovu did not attack him. An outraged Zira declares that Kovu cannot betray them.
One day, when Simba and Kovu were out for a walk, Zira and the Outsiders ambushed them with Zira congratulating Kovu for getting Simba alone just as they had planned but Kovu denied having anything to do with it. Simba was able to escape, but during the process, Nuka died after being crushed by logs when pursuing Simba, much to Zira's shock. After mourning for Nuka, Zira angrily blamed Kovu for Nuka's death and scratched him across the face, leaving a scar on his left eye like Scar's. Zira angrily accuses Kovu of betraying his pride and Scar for doing nothing to kill Simba. After Kovu leaves, Zira tells the Outsiders that Simba has corrupted Kovu and they shall take his kingdom by force.
That night, Zira and the Outsiders arrive and battle Simba and the Pridelanders. Just as Zira and Simba are about to deliver the final blow to each other, Kiara and Kovu arrive to put a stop to the battle. Zira tells Kovu to get out of the way, but he refuses by saying that he will not let her harm Kiara or Simba while he is here. Kiara manages to convince Simba to give up the feud by saying the prides should be together and must put their differences aside for the future of the Pride Lands, which inspired both prides. Unperturbed, Zira orders Vitani to attack them, but Vitani, realizing that Kiara is telling the truth, refuses and turns against Zira, who vows to kill her for it. However, this only causes the other Outsiders to turn against Zira and join the Pridelanders, much to her objections. Simba tells Zira that it's time to put the past behind them, but Zira refuses to let go of the past and in a last attempt to avenge Scar, leaps to attack Simba only to be knocked down a cliff by Kiara. Zira is able to cling onto the side but refuses Kiara's help and loses grip and falls screaming to her death in a fast flowing river below, much to Kovu's dismay.
Despite Zira's death, her original plan to have Kovu as the new King is most likely to succeed, fulfilling Scar's wish, but not in the way she expected as Kovu wants to carry on Simba's legacy, which inspired a touched Simba to accept Kovu as his son-in-law and future successor.
When The Lion Guard returns from the trip to The Tree of Life after hearing about Zira's return, they meet Kovu, Kiara and Vitani who are now directing a new Lion Guard and telling them that Zira is dead. A rock painting of Zira reciting the story of the second film are shown next.
The Lion King: Simba's Mighty Adventure
Zira appears in 2000 video game The Lion King: Simba's Mighty Adventure as one of the two bosses (the other being Scar) where she battles Simba and roar that would cause rocks and logs to fall towards Simba which he has to dodge before finally defeating her. She was voiced by Grey DeLisle.
- In Swahili, "Zira" means "hate". Given that she is a hateful lioness, it is perfectly fitting.
- Originally, as Zira was hanging for dear life and Kiara offered to help her, Zira refused her help and let go, committing suicide. Instead, it is left ambiguous as to why she fell, as suicide was considered too dark for a Disney animated film.
- Zira was originally going to be called Bianca. Presumably, it was changed to "Zira" for not being primarily a Swahili name.
- It is unknown why Zira thinks that Simba had killed Scar, but it is most likely she was away from the Pride Lands during the events that led to Scar's death, unaware that the Hyenas are responsible for Scar's death due to his treachery against them, and returned after Simba became King. The same happens to Janja in The Lion Guard who thinks that he was burned alive during the fire at Pride Rock which started during the time he confesses that he killed Mufasa.
- It is odd that she is so loyal to Scar, as during Scar's reign, the Pride Lands suffered from no food and water and he didn't do anything about it and all the lionesses present during the events of the first film were loyal to Mufasa and Simba and fought beside Simba against Scar. However it is revealed in The Lion Guard that she and Scar were very close and that he told her about the Roar of the Elders. This perfectly supports contradiction to the events of the first film and squares with why she is so loyal to Scar.
- She is the second of two Disney Villains to show love and care for his/her family, the first being Sir Ector from Disney's 1963 animated film, The Sword in the Stone.
- When Kovu's training is being reviewed, the notch in Zira's ear switches sideways to the other ear. This is considered a film goof.
- In the original script to The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, Zira was Scar's mate and mother of his son Nunka who would seduce Simba's daughter, Aisha (a working name for Kiara). However this would have caused incest as Nunka would have been Simba's first cousin and Aisha's first cousin once removed, so Nunka was renamed Kovu and became Scar's adoptive son and Zira's direct lineage, and relationship to Scar was obscured to make her "just a follower."
- Bette Midler and Helen Mirren were considered for the role of Zira. Bette Midler previously played a villain before she was considered for the role: Bette Midler also played Winifred "Winnie" Sanderson in Disney's Hocus Pocus.
- Zira, Sa'Luk, Jafar, and Maestro Forte are the four only Disney Villains of a sequel to die at the climax. She is also the last Disney Villain of a sequel to die at the climax.
- When Zira tells Jasiri to leave, she says it the same way as Scar when he told Simba to leave the Pride Lands forever.
- She looks very similar to the Strange Lion from The Lion Guard, especially when it comes to their eyes and the stripe on their foreheads, this has caused theories that he might be Zira's father. However, there is a contradiction to this theory, while Zira was born in the Pride Lands, the Strange Lion was not.
- A painting of Zira is seen in the Lair of the Lion Guard in "Cave of Secrets".