Zira is the mother of Kovu, Nuka and Vitani, the leader of the Outsiders, and the main antagonist of The Lion King II: Simba's Pride.
She was voiced by the late Suzanne Pleshette.
She is a lioness with dark coloration. She has red eyes, one notched ear (the history of which is never revealed), and a stripe down the center of her head.
Zira is opportunistic, cynical, and imposing, letting her emotions control her constantly, which usually leads to her launching into venomous rants and invective. She seems to be patient, as she was willing to wait until Kovu reached adulthood before putting her plans into motion. However, despite her strengths, she suffers the same downfall as Scar; her hatred blinds her. Even though Zira is cruel, she does have a bit of a soft side. She starts to cry after seeing Nuka die, and she does show affection to Kovu toward the beginning of the film.
Shortly before the end of The Lion King, Zira was Scar's most devoted of his followers, revering him with a near-worshipping devotion and praising his very name. However, after Simba returned, Zira was exiled along with her followers for their continued loyalty to Scar. After that, Zira held Simba responsible for Scar's death (aware that it was the Hyenas who killed her master), and plotted to both avenge Scar and take back the throne, using Kovu as a puppet-ruler. Zira and her followers became known as Outsiders.
Role in the film
Zira is the mother of Nuka, Vitani, and Kovu and leader of Scar's followers The Outsiders and the hyenas, Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed. After Simba deposed Scar, who was then killed by the hyenas for his betrayel of them, and banished the Outsiders to the Outlands, Zira vowed revenge for Scar, believing Simba had murdered him. Her youngest son, Kovu, was Scar's chosen heir (despite not being related to Scar), and Zira dreamed that he could one day kill and usurp Simba. Zira first appears when Kovu eventually runs off into the Pridelands (avoiding Nuka's uncaring eye: Vitani implies this happens often) and meets Kiara, Simba's daughter. She witnesses the playful interaction between the two cubs and growls in anger after Kiara reveals her identity to Kovu. After Simba shows up and roars at Kovu, Zira puts her forearms protectively in front of Kovu, and exchanges bitter words towards Simba (and the lionesses who followed him). In a mocking gesture of Simba's demand she pay the penalty for trespassing she nudges Kovu forward as Simba's "pound of flesh", knowing he would not bring himself to kill the cub. After the younger lion tells them to leave Zira approaches him and darkly tells him thier business has just began and grants Kiara a knowingly malicious glare; despite this, Zira walks off with Simba unscathed. After returning home, Zira proceeds to let out her wrath on Nuka and Kovu, sardonically mocking the idea that Kovu tried to make friends with Kiara so he could get him and his family close to Simba (though this was not the reality of the situation). It is only when Zira announces these words that she realizes it may very well be a good idea. After praising Kovu for giving her the catalyst to her revenge, she coos the cub to sleep and then proceeds to outline her epic dreams.
Zira then trained Kovu as a killer with hate in his heart for Simba. When he became a young adult she engineered a plan to start a fire so that Kovu could save Kiara's life and get close to Simba, so as to gain his trust and eventually kill him.
She observed Kovu from a distance, pleased with the progress of the plan and that everything was going according to her scheme. However, Vitani reported that Kovu and Kiara had fallen in love, and as a result, Kovu was having second thoughts about trying to levy murder onto Simba. Zira was determined to continue with her plan though, and she quickly devised a plan to corner Simba and Kovu in a heavily eroded, dusty part of the Pridelands, purposefully leading Simba to believe Kovu was bent on killing Simba. However, when Kovu went against his mother's wishes to kill Simba, Nuka tried to carry it out instead to gain his mother's attention and approval. However, he ended up being crushed by the falling logs and dying, and ironically, it was through his death that he finally gained the attention and affection of his mother. Zira deeply mourned her son's death, silently asking Scar to watch over Nuka in heaven. Her grief turned to pure wrath and she slashes Kovu across the eye, giving him a vertical wound identical to Scar's. After her initial shock, Zira scolded Kovu for causing the death of Nuka by not lifting a paw to kill Simba, therefore having a part in Nuka's demise.
Zira, furious at Simba's "corruption" of Kovu, then declared open war on Simba, and launched an attack on Pride Rock, using the opportunity of Simba's injured state from being hurled into rocks and attacked by the Outsiders and hyenas. Zira arrived at the edge of Pride Rock with her army, rejecting Simba's last chance offer to return home and avert the confrontation, and soon an intense battle begins between the two factions. Before Zira and Simba can face off in what will inevitably be a blood-soaked skirmish, Kovu and Kiara intervene, confronting their respective parents from killing the other. Kiara is able to make Simba stop the battle by telling him that their two factions, despite their ethical scale and deep hate they have for one another, are the same.
When Vitani sees the truth of Kiara's words and joins Simba, Zira tells her daughter that she won't fight she will die as well. These words visibly shock and disgust her lionesses, who as a result leave her and the hyenas, and join Simba. Simba tells Zira to let it go because it's time to put the past behind them, but Zira screams that she will "never let it go", and leaps at him, still intent on killing Simba to avenge Scar. Kiara jumps in front causing the two lionesses to go over the cliff. The dam breaks, and the river begins to flow rapidly.
Kiara tries to reach out to help her, and Zira is shown trying to choose between death or accepting Kiara's help. However, Zira's pride and hate will not allow her to be rescued by her worst enemies' daughter and she rejects Kiara's help, only to finally fall off the cliff and into the water and is washed away. Kovu then sighs, both in deep pain and relief.
- It was originally planned for Zira to deliberately let go of the cliff rather than simply reject Kiara's help, but her fall was instead depicted as her simply slipping while rejecting Kiara's aid as it was felt that the villain committing suicide was too 'adult' for a Disney movie. A similar edit was also made with Gaston's final fate in Beauty and the Beast. Despite this, however, while "screaming" during her fall, the scene depicts her smiling.
- When Zira and Simba encounter each other onscreen for the first time, Zira's line "If you need your pound of flesh..." as she pushes Kovu forward is actually a reference to the Shakespearian play "The Merchant of Venice", even though "Simba's Pride" is based on "Romeo and Juliet".
- During early production the producer's had originally named Zira "Bianca" but this wasn't "swahillian" enough and could easily be confused with Miss Bianca in which her name was changed to Zira.
- When Zira blames Kovu for the death of Nuka, her reasoning seems somewhat ironic for someone who had a high opinion of Scar. Although it is also very likely that she was trying to inform Kovu that he ended up becoming no different from Scar despite rejecting him as a means to break his spirit.
- In early production, Zira was originally going to be Scar's mate and the mother of his cub Nunka (the original name for Kovu). Because this would cause incest between her son, Nunka, and Scar's great-niece and Simba's daughter, Kiara, this relation was obscured to make her 'just a follower'. However, some fans of the film still consider Zira to be Scar's mate, and at least one novelization did explicitly refer to her as Scar's mate.
- In some broadcasts, Zira is accompanied by the Hyenas instead of the Outsiders.
- Zira's revenge on Kovu is somewhat similar to Copper's revenge on Tod. Both stay angry and explain about their family relationship's defeat avenging, but unlike Zira, Copper isn't a villain and unlike Nuka Chief was Copper's boss.
- When Kovu's training is being reviewed, the notch in Zira's ear switches sideways to the other ear.
- She's the second villain to display love and actually care for her family the first being Sir Ector.
- In some Lion King 2:Simba's Pride reading books, her eyes are mistakingly colored dark blue or dark green.
- Zira is the sixth Disney villain who's minions turn on her, the first being Tetti-Tatti, the second being Stan and Heff, the third being Jafar the fourth being Scar, the fifth was Buster, the sixth was NOS-4-A2, and the seventh being Governor Ratcliffe.
- Zira is also similar to Shere Khan. Whilst they are the main antagonist they have a quality that not many other villains have. Zira actually loves her family and Shere Khan is sympathetic towards his victims calling Mowgli "the helpless little lad".
- Kovu eventually will become the Pride Land's King, meaning Zira actually succeeded with her plan. This makes her the second Disney Villain to actually achieve their goal long term the first being Brom Bones who seeked to marry Katrina Van Tassel.
- Zira's role as a follower to Scar contradicts the events of the first film where all the lionesses had fought beside Simba against Scar. It is possible however that she and her followers were away hunting and, given their devotion to Scar, did not understand the futility of this course of action.