- “A symphony of death, oh my! That's my lullaby!”
- ―Zira singing
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 became a young adult before putting her plans into motion. However, she generally shows little affection even for her children unless they are of use to her, and is willing to abandon or even kill them if they will not follow her path of vengeance. However, despite her strengths, she suffers the same downfall as Scar; her hatred blinds her. Zira does seem to care for her family and her Pride, despite her vindictive nature, showing depression when Nuka dies, and pride when Nuka and Vitani say or do things that appeal to her plan. Although Zira hated Simba completely, her interactions with the rest of the pride were comparatively neutral, which is especially evident in her introduction: When Simba and Zira encounter each other when the latter attempted to ambush Kiara, after identifying Simba in a tone that obviously implied that she was excited at the opportunity to exact revenge, she saw the rest of the pride arrive with Simba, and identified Nala in a curt tone.
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 (unaware or ignoring 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.
She is a lioness with dark coloration. Her fur is grayish-tan with white toes and paw pads. She has red eyes, black eyebrows, dark brown upper eye patches and eyelids and white under patches, black triangle nose, one notched ear (the history of which is never revealed), and a dark stripe down the center of her head.
Zira is the mother of Nuka, Vitani and Kovu and leader of Scar's followers The Outsiders. After Simba deposed Scar, who was then killed by the hyenas for his betrayal of them, and banished the Outsiders to the Outlands, Zira vowed revenge for Scar, believing Simba had murdered him, not knowing it was the hyenas who really killed Scar because Scar blamed them for murdering his own brother Mufasa and for breaking his promise to them. 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 to Nala and the lionesses who followed). 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 due to his better nature. After the younger lion tells them to leave Zira approaches him and darkly tells him their 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 Pride Lands, 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 Outlanders. 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 which she and Simba tell them to step aside. 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 will die as well. These words visibly shock and disgust her lionesses, who as a result leave her and join Simba. Simba tells Zira to let it go, but Zira is none too convinced, 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. At this point, 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 rival's daughter, and she rejects Kiara's help, only to finally fall off the cliff and into the water and washed away with the current. Kovu then sighs, both in deep pain and relief.
Despite Zira's death, her original plan to have Kovu as the new King of the Pride Lands 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.
Zira appears in 2000 video game The Lion King: Simba's Mighty Adventure as one of the two 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.
- 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".
- Zira was patterned after Belladonna, an animated lioness from an episode of Osamu Tezuka's 1960s anime Kimba the White Lion. Belladonna claimed to be Kimba's aunt, but later repented from her wrongdoings unlike Scar and Zira.
- During early production, the producers had originally named Zira "Bianca", but this was not "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. However, 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.
- She told Kovu that he betrayed his pride, which is exactly what Scar did when he allowed the Hyenas to take over.
- She also told him that he "killed his own brother", which, again, is exactly what Scar did. Also, Kovu hardly can be held accountable for this seeing as Nuka fell, and had nothing to do with him.
- This scene is vaguely similar to when Scar accused Simba of murdering his father. But while Scar was simply trying to discourage Simba, Zira truly believed what she said was true.
- In early production, Zira was originally going to be Scar's mate, and the mother of his cub Kovu. Because this would cause incest between her son, Kovu, 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.
- She is occasionally considered a member of Disney's Sinister Cats, while Scar is officially a member.
- Her revenge on Kovu is somewhat similar to Copper's revenge on Tod. Both stay angry and explain about their family relationship's defeat avenging (in Zira's case, Nuka getting crushed by a log, and in Copper's case, Chief falling off a train track), but Zira is a villain, while Copper is a hero, and Nuka was Zira's son, as Chief was Copper's foster father.
- Zira is the eighth villain who has fallen to her death. The first is the Evil Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, with the second being Maleficent, the third being the Bear, the fifth being Percival McLeach, the sixth being Gaston, the seventh being Frollo, the ninth being Clayton, the tenth being Charles Muntz, and the eleventh being Mother Gothel.
- When Kovu's training is being reviewed, the notch in Zira's ear switches sideways to the other ear.
- She is the second villain to display love and actually care for her family, with the first being Sir Ector. The difference between the two characters is that Sir Ector reforms in the end, but Zira does not.
- Unlike most other villains who have fallen to their deaths, Zira is one of the few who was actually seen landing. The others were Frollo, Clayton, Queen Narissa, and Mother Gothel. (Scar does not count, as he was not killed by the fall itself, because the Hyenas mauled him in revenge for pinning the blame of his brother's murder on them, and was implied to have been burned alive.)
- In some Lion King 2: Simba's Pride reading books, her eyes are mistakenly colored dark blue or dark green.
- Zira is the sixth Disney villain whose minions turn on her, with the first being Tetti-Tatti, the second being Stan and Heff, the third being Jafar, the fourth being Scar, and the fifth being Governor Ratcliffe. She was not the last though, as Dr. Facilier also had his minions turn on him. Also, Buster from Lady and the Tramp II had his minions abandon him.
- 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 succeeds with her plan. This makes her only the second Disney Villain to actually achieve their long term goal, with the first being Brom Bones, who sought 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.
- Zira, Sa'Luk and Forte are the only Disney sequel villains to actually die. (Jafar does not count because he originally appeared in the first film)
- The director later stated that Kovu is an orphan, meaning that Zira is his adopted mother. Since it makes sense given his age, it is possible Zira either found him as an infant out in the middle of nowhere, or she just happened to find him as a newborn among their bodies.
- Bette Midler and Helen Mirren were considered for the role of Zira.
- Her name means "hatred" in Swahili.