Zira is the main antagonist of Disney's 1998 animated film The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, (the sequel to Disney's 1994 animated film The Lion King), and The Lion Guard (which serves as a midquel to the film) episode Lions of the Outlands. She is the villainous leader of the Outsiders, Nuka, Vitani, and Kovu's mother, Kiara's mother-in-law and Scar's close friend and most loyal follower.
In The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, she 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 was voiced by Nika Futterman.
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 children for the sake of revenge. Deep inside though, she genuinely does love them – like any loving mother, she will defend her children and was greatly saddened by Nuka's death, but she will not tolerate disobedience or failure. After Kovu had started to fall in love with Kiara, Zira's love for her youngest son ended and since then, she has hated Kovu for his final decision. She was also subsequently obsessed with revenge that when she faced death, she refused aid and fell to her death out of pure anger.
Zira's most noticeable trait is her fierce loyalty to Scar. Even after his death, Zira still considered Scar her king and blamed Simba for his defeat. Due to her loyalty, Scar inturn chose Zira's son Kovu to be his successor. However, after claiming his rightful place on the throne, Simba banished Zira and her family from the pride lands, due to them still being loyal to Scar.
Zira is also an extraordinary and charismatic actress, being able to act kind and understanding in order to sway people to her side. Zira is also a xenophobic racist, as she loathes hyenas (even in unawareness that they are who killed Scar instead of Simba, whom she held accountable for, though hyenas are the natural rivals of lions), firmly believing that lions are superior to all other animals and should therefore rule them through force and threat. Also, she seems to be somewhat cowardly and pusillanimous, as she once begged Kion not to use the Roar of the Elders against her and the Outlanders by reminding him that they're his kind, only for an annoyed Kion to use it anyway to drive Zira and her clan away into a termite mound.
Zira and her three children Nuka, Vitani and Kovu lived in the Pride Lands's pride during the reign of Scar, who was very close to 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). Scar also named Zira's youngest cub Kovu his successor to the throne.
However, sometime after Kovu's birth, 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. After this, Zira confronted Simba and told him that he could not rule the Pride Lands because Scar had chosen Kovu to be the next King. 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.
The Lion King II: Simba's Pride
Amongst the members of her pride were her children Nuka, Vitani, and Kovu (who heavily resembles Scar, although they had no blood relation). Zira claimed to be fond of Kovu, even though she regularly abused him while she trained him. She was even delighted to hear that Scar has chosen Kovu as his new successor. In her quest for revenge against Scar's death and exile to barren lands, she had the plan of using Kovu to enter Simba's pride as a rogue, and when he and Simba were alone, the Outsiders would kill Simba and Kovu would succeed Scar as king.
Years later, an adolescent Kovu is accepted into the Pride Lands after saving Simba's daughter Kiara from a destructive wildfire. 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 death by the jaws of the hyenas for his treachery against 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. 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, 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.
The Lion Guard
Zira, along with Kovu, Nuka and Vitani, appeared as guest stars in the 2016 Disney Junior series The Lion Guard (which takes place after Zira's confrontation with Simba and before she sends Kovu out to infiltrate the Pridelanders).
"Lions of the Outlands"
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 realise 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.
"Cave of Secrets"
A painting of Zira is seen in the Lair of the Lion Guard.
Zira is a slender 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 appears in 2000 videogame The Lion King: Simba's Mighty Adventure as one of the two bosses (the other on being Scar) where she battles Simba and roar that would cause rocks to fall towards Simba which he has to dodge before finally defeating her.
Oh, haven't you met my son Kovu? He was hand-chosen by Scar to follow in his paw prints and become King.
~ Zira to Simba.
Oh no, Simba. We have barely begun.
~ Zira rebuffing Simba's demand that they're finished in their feud.
You were suppose to be WATCHING HIM!!
~ Zira lashing out at her son Nuka for neglecting his babysitting duties with a young Kovu.
What were you doing!? [Kovu: Nothing!] Who has made us outsiders?! [Kovu: Simba!] Who killed Scar? [Kovu: Simba!] What have I told you ABOUT THEM!?
~ Zira to Kovu about his encounter with Kiara and her father Simba.
Friends? You thought that you could get to the daughter and then Simba would welcome you with open arms? (sarcastically) What an idea. (realizing the plan could work) What an idea! You brilliant child—I'm so proud of you. You have the same conniving mind that made Scar so... powerful.
~ Zira realizing that she could use Kovu's friendship with Kiara to get to Simba.
You are ready. Nice...very nice. You have the same blackness in your soul that Scar had.
~ Zira to Young Adult Kovu.
Well done, Kovu. Just like we've always planned.
~ Zira and the Outlanders praising Kovu for fulfilling his role in their plan, making Simba believe that Kovu led him into their trap.
Scar....watch over our dear Nuka.
~ Zira mourning the loss of her son Nuka with the other Outlanders.
YOU! What have you done?!
~ Zira to Kovu minutes before she scratches him across the face, leaving him with a scar
Exactly! And in doing so, you betrayed your pride. Betrayed Scar!
~ Zira berating Kovu for betraying the Outsiders and Scar.
Nuka is dead because of you. YOU'VE KILLED YOUR OWN BROTHER!
~ Zira blaming Kovu for Nuka's death
It's over, Simba! I have dreamed of nothing else for years!
~ Zira to Simba before the Pridelander-Outsider battle
You're even weaker than I thought. Get out of the way!
~ Zira to Kovu when he and Kiara stop her and Simba from fighting.
If you will not fight, then you will die as well.
~ Zira to Vitani after she joins the Pridelanders.
I'll never let it go! This is for you, Scar!
~ Zira's last words before her death.
Scar and I were close. Very close. He taught me all about the Roar! If it weren't for your father, he'd still be King of the Pride Lands.
~ Zira expressing that she knew Scar personally in Kion.
This is your last chance, Kion!
~ Zira forcing Kion to join her.
During Lions Over All, Zira uses jumping over the rising rocks like Scar when he sings Be Prepared. In My Lullaby, like Scar, she laughs evilly in the end of the song.
In Swahili, "Zira" means "hate". Given that she hates Simba for killing Scar, 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.
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.
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.
She crosses the MEH after she violently attacks Kovu despite him having nothing to do with Nuka's death and later she violently declared war before attempting to murder the king one last time.
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 Kiara. However this would have caused incest as Nunka would have been Simba's cousin and Kiara's second cousin, so Nunka became Kovu and became Scar's adoptive son and Zira became "just a loyal follower" of Scar.
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 played Winifred "Winnie" Sanderson in Disney's Hocus Pocus.