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Although only three are important to the plot, the hyenas are mainly perceived as being crazy, malicious and dim-witted servants of Scar. They resent the lions for being "at the top of the food chain," and are willing to work for Scar to gain hunting rights in the Pride Lands.
The most famous of the clan are Shenzi, Banzai and Ed, the "friends" and allies of Scar. The clan itself was first mentioned when Zazu (upon learning the news from a gopher) informs Mufasa while the latter was attempting to train Simba at pouncing that hyenas were currently in the Pride Lands (apparently causing some trouble), thus forcing Mufasa to break off the training to dispel the situation, although it is never specified whether Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed were involved in this particular raid or whether it was unnamed members of the group. They first appear trying to dispose of Simba and Nala, a plan later revealed to be set up by Scar. When they fail due to Mufasa's intervention, Scar is angry at them, but forms another plan, promising the hyenas that when he became king, they will never go hungry ever again.
They kill Mufasa, via a stampede, and chase Simba away from the resulting corpse. After the monarch and his heir are done away with, the hyenas infest the Pride Lands with Scar as their king and them presumably, as his bodyguards. As the Pride Lands became barren, the hyenas started to become more hungry and complained to their king, but Scar just ignored them.
When Simba returns from his self-imposed exile from the Pride Lands, the hyenas reinforce Scar's position as king when Simba orders for Scar to step down. After Scar gets Simba to confess his responsibility for Mufasa's death, the hyenas surround the two lions as they head toward the edge of Pride Rock, presumably protecting Scar. After Simba gets Scar to confess he killed Mufasa, a climatic battle between the Pridelanders (with Timon and Pumbaa) and the hyenas break out while Simba goes after Scar at the top of Pride Rock in hopes of avenging his father's death. Scar tells the confronting Simba that the hyenas were "the real enemies" that were responsible for killing Mufasa, which angers the hyenas who were overhearing him. A brief duel erupts between the two lions, which ends with Simba flipping his uncle over a cliff where Scar lands in an area with the defeated hyenas.
The hyenas, determined to get revenge on Scar for denouncing them as "the enemy", begin to surround their former king with gleaming eyes and wide grins. Scar continually pleads for his life, but the hyenas, ignoring his pleas and giving in to their rage and hunger, close in, leap on Scar and maul him to death, as flames rise around them.
During the early stages of the film, Zira was supposed to ally side-by-side with the surviving members of Scar's former army who fled during the battle. However, this idea was scrapped, probably because the hyenas are the ones who really killed Scar, and Zira would never ally with them and possibly hold Simba accountable for his uncle's death had she known that.
According to Nuka, the hyenas fled from the Pride Lands implying that some, if not all, hyenas survived after the battle at Pride Rock.
When Timon and Pumbaa venture into a different section of the Elephant Graveyard where Scar's hyena army are singing "Be Prepared" while marching. Later on in the film, after Timon and Pumbaa perform their hula song to clear the way for Simba to confront Scar, some of the hyenas pursue them only to flee after being gassed by Pumbaa's stench. After Timon reunites with his mother and his uncle, Pumbaa notices the hyenas protecting Scar while Simba is dangling from the edge of Pride Rock. Timon coordinates a plan for Ma and Uncle Max to dig a tunnel to trap the hyenas while he and Pumbaa try to get the hyenas away from Simba.
When Simba goes after Scar, the hyenas follow him and try to prevent him from reaching Scar, but are distracted by Timon and Pumbaa, who insult the hyena pack with an offensive joke. Ed stupidly laughs at it, to which Banzai slaps him for. The hyenas go after Timon and Pumbaa and manage to corner them at the edge of Pride Rock. Timon and Pumbaa try several tactics to stall them while Uncle Max and Ma dig a tunnel underneath them to make them fall off of Pride Rock. But when the trap tunnel initially fails, the hyenas move in to kill Ma, Pumbaa, and Uncle Max. Unwilling to give up, Timon jumps down between Shenzi's legs and bravely completes the tunnel. The hyenas then fall through the ground and plummet to the bottom of Pride Rock, where they meet Scar after he is thrown off a cliff by Simba.
- Male hyenas are low on the hierarchy chain; however, Ed and Banzai seem to be Shenzi's equals, although Shenzi's directors state otherwise. They could possibly be her siblings since real hyenas act this way.
- The unnamed hyenas in the film did not have pupils in some scenes, causing them to look far more deranged and depraved.
- The term "Shadowland" is derived from Simba, describing the Graveyard as a "Shadowy place" and Zazu's confirmation that it's their land, therefore they have no rights.
- Originally, the hyenas were going to be cape dogs but were changed to spotted hyenas because cape dogs are endangered.
- In the original plot for the movie (called King of the Kalahari then), the hyenas were baboons, but still served as Scar's henchmen.
- In the musical, they are revealed to be one of the reasons the Pridelands has depleted, as they had forced the lionesses to overhunt.
- While the hyenas in the movie are portrayed as main scavengers, real hyenas are actually quite competent predators who hunt more than they scavenge and have their kills quite often being stolen by lions. However, at the time the movie was made, many people (including scientists) thought that hyenas were actually pure scavengers, promoting the stereotype even further.
- They are ancestors of the hyena clan that serve as the antagonists in the 2015 TV film The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar and it's 2016 TV series The Lion Guard.