"Lions over all. No animal is more grand"
- Zira singing Lion Over All
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 a guest character in its 2016 midquel series, The Lion Guard. She is the leader of the outlanders, Nuka, Vitani, and Kovu's mother, Kiara's mother-in-law and Scar's most loyal follower.
She was voiced by the late Suzanne Pleshett in Simba's Pride, and by Nika Futterman in The Lion Guard.
Zira 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 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 made 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 King Simba returned to Pride Rock and fought and defeated Scar. After this, Zira confronted Simba and told him that Scar had chosen Kovu to be the next King. When Simba told Zira that Scar was never the true King, she attacked him. After emerging victorious, Simba banished Zira and the other lionesses who were loyal to Scar to the Outlands as punishment. Zira then 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, Kovu would then kill him and succeed Scar as king.
Years later, a young adult Kovu having been accepted into the Pride Lands after saving Simba's daughter Kiara from a 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 sneak up behind and kill Simba to take the throne.
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, are guest stars in The Lion Guard (which takes place after Zira's confrontation with Simba and before she sends Kovu out to infiltrate the Pridelanders) episode "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 a hyena clan) 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, leaving him at his mercy.
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. Kion uses the Roar to sweep Zira and her lions away. They land near a termite mound.
Zira appears in 2000 video game, The Lion King: Simba's Mighty Adventure as one of the 2 bosses (the other one 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.
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 also was so obsessed with revenge that when she faced death, she refused aid and fell to her death out of pure anger.
Zira is also an extraordinary, charismatic, fabulous, and great actress, being able to act kind and understanding in order to sway people to her side. Zira is also a xenophobe and a 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.
Zira is a slim 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 nose is angular and black and she has a notch of unknown origin in her right ear. She has a wiry grin when she smiles.
"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
"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
"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
" 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
"If you will not fight, then you will die as well."
- Zira to Vitani after she joins the Pridelanders
"This is your last chance, Kion"
- Zira forcing Kion to join her
"I'll never let it go! This is for you, Scar!"
- Zira's last words.
- In Swahili, "Zira" means "hate". Given that she hates Simba for killing Scar, it's 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's 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.
- Zira is patterned after Belladonna from Osamu Tezuka's anime, Kimba the White Lion. Unlike Zira, she eventually asked forgiveness from her wrongdoings to the main character.
- She is very similar to Shere Khan from Disney's 1967 animated film, The Jungle Book.
- Both are the main antagonists and share a quality not seen in most of Disney's villains: A soft spot. Zira loves her family and Shere Khan is sympathetic towards his victims, when referring to Mowgli as the "helpless little lad".. Also, they both hate a certain group (Shere Khan hates humans and Zira hates Pridelanders). In the climax of the second film, they fall from a cliff. However, Zira drowns in a raging river while Shere Khan gets trapped in stone.
- She is extremely similar to Soto from Blue Sky's 2002 animated film. Ice Age.
- Both are evil feline (Zira being an Lioness;Soto being an Smilodon).
- Both they have their Second-Command (Vitani/Diego).
- Both are leaders of their slaves (The Outlanders in the Zira's case; The Troops in the Soto's case).
- Both they order to their second-in-command to attack the Tribe (Priderlanders/Humans).
- Both are Master of the Hero.
- Both are betrayed by their second-in-command.
- Both die in the end (Zira fell from the cliff into the Nile;Soto get killed by sharp icicles).
- 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 is also very similar to Claude Frollo from Disney's 1996 animated film, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
- Both are the main antagonist and slim. While they appear to care for a male hero (Frollo seemingly cares for Quasimodo and Zira seemingly cares for Kovu), they actually grant them little or no freedom (Frollo kept Quasimodo isolated in Notre Dame and Zira forbade Kovu from exploring the Pride Lands). As well, both are bent on destroying a certain group (Frollo was determined to kill gypsies and Zira was determined to kill Pridelanders). In the climax, they both fall to death in disgrace. However, Zira doesn't share Frollo's egotistical and selfish ways as she shows love and cares for her family.
- She is also very similar to Nyra from The Guardians of Ga'Hoole books.
- Both have sons who they want to live up to their deceased paternal figure (Zira wanted Kovu to follow in the footsteps of his adoptive father Scar and Nyra wanted her son Coyrn to be like his father, Kludd).
- Both also give their sons scars after they turn to the good side.
- She crosses the MEH after she violently attacks Kovu despite having nothing to do with his brother's death and later 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.
- Zira and her pride are similar to ODESSA, a group of Nazis who fled Germany to Argentina, Brazil and the Middle-East in the wake of the fall of Hitler and planned to reconquer Germany, the similarity being that Zira and her fellow Scar-loyalists were banished to the Outlands in the wake of the fall of Scar and plan to reconquer the Pridelands.
- They are also similar to North Korea, an isolated hermit kingdom formed after a great battle, lead by a charismatic autocrat and with a cult-like reverence for their dead former ruler. Zira complains about the lack of food and resources in the Outlands, a complaint often levied against the West by North Korea's leaders. Both are populated by die-hard fanatics, third and second generation idealogues and raise their children to be soldiers whilst denouncing their enemy territories as completely decadent and claiming that their reconquest is inevitable.