Although only three affect the plot of the movie directly, the hyenas are perceived by most animals 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. They also don't respect the Circle of Life and are very greedy, having no problem with over hunting the Pride Lands.
The only named members of the clan are Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed. In nature, hyena clans are matriarchies, run by the females. Male hyenas have their own hierarchy within a clan, but even the highest-ranking male hyena ranks lower than the lowest ranking female pup. The only way a male can gain rank within a hyena clan is through performing services for high-ranking females.
Due to the obedience of all the other hyenas, it seems that Shenzi is the Matriarch of the Clan. She has total authority over them, and in return, it seems that they are loyal to her command, which makes her a force to be reckoned with, despite her loud and rather obnoxious sense of humor. She prompts the clan to ally with Scar, approaches him during the food shortage, and informs the clan of his betrayal at the climax.
Banzai would appear to be Shenzi's second-in-command. But with the social structure of hyenas in mind, it is likely that he is simply the highest-ranking male of the clan, giving him authority over all other males, as long as there aren't any females around. Just the same, he is unquestioningly loyal to Shenzi, obeying her orders and supporting her decisions.
Ed appears to be less intelligent than either Shenzi or Banzai, but it seems that where they go, he goes. It is said that "Ed knows the score". He certainly doesn't take his orders from Banzai though, and both Shenzi and Banzai can interpret his laughter into coherent speech. The most likely conclusion is that he is another high-ranking male, keeping Shenzi in touch with the needs and opinions of the lower ranks among the clan.
- Shenzi: The leader of the clan. She was voiced by Whoopi Goldberg.
- Banzai: The friend of Shenzi and Ed and the most aggressive member of the clan. He was voiced by Cheech Marin, and also was the second-in-command of the clan. He is also one of the co-leaders and takes things seriously.
- Ed: The friend of Shenzi and Banzai. He was voiced by Jim Cummings. Jim also provided Scar's singing voice in the second half of "Be Prepared, and also the third-in-command of the clan. He is also a co-leader.
- Banzai's Father: He was a former member of the clan before he was killed and eaten by Nala's mother Sarafina. He is mentioned in the musical.
- Deceased Hyena: This hyena was a former member of the clan. The hyena died during Scar's song "Be Prepared" when Scar pushed the hyena into a crack of lava.
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. The hyenas first appeared in the Elephant Graveyard during the song' Be Prepared when Scar, along with Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed, plan to dispose of his brother Mufasa and his nephew Simba to become the new King of the Pride Lands. Following Mufasa's death at the paws of Scar and Simba's self-exile, the hyenas enter the Pride Lands as Scar takes the throne in Pride Rock, as he allows them to hunt down as much as they want, much to their delight.
Even though it would have seemed the hyenas have finally achieved what they came for, the Pride Lands start to dry out of food and water, and hyenas start to complain due to their hunger. Unconcerned by the hyenas' hunger Scar rebukes them sharply and does not allow them to complain nor compare him to Mufasa. When a young adult Simba returns to overthrow Scar, the hyenas join in the fight against Simba and the other lions, Timon and Pumba and Rafki. Many hyenas are killed by the lionesses, whilst others are sent fleeing from the Pride Lands amongst a wildfire. When Simba confronts Scar on top of Pride Rock, the helpless king turns on his minions, telling his nephew that Mufasa death was their idea, without knowing that Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed came to help their king overheard, but Simba refuses to believe him. After Simba defeats Scar by throwing him off Pride Rock, Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed along with the other hyenas appear to the scene, having previously overheard Scar's treachery against them. A terrified Scar tries to explain himself, but the hyenas refuse to listen to him as they are fed up with his broken promises of never going hungry again. Giving in to their hunger, the angry hyenas devour Scar alive as the fire effect sweeps over them.
During the early stages of the film, Zira was supposed to ally side-by-side with the remaining hyenas 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.
The hyenas do not appear in the sequel, but they are mentioned by Nuka, who was visiting the abandoned elephant graveyard with his sister Vitani, as their mother Zira (the leader of the Outsiders) plans to overthrow Simba to have her son Kovu become the new King in order to avenge Scar's death. Nuka commented that the elephant graveyard has become more creepier ever since the hyenas ran off, implying that some of them may have survived the battle of Pride Rock and fled the Pride Lands.
Zira believed that Simba was responsible for Scar's death. However, Kovu soon learned the truth from Simba after having a change of heart and successfully convinced the Outsiders to make peace with the Pridelanders, though Zira ends up falling to her death in a gorge after refusing to give up her rage against Simba, for Scar and Nuka's deaths, much to Kovu's dismay.
When Timon and Pumbaa venture into a different section of the Elephant Graveyard where Scar's hyena army is 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.
The clan also appeared in the 2019 remake as Scar's henchmen. A notable difference in the scene where Simba and Nala arrive in the Elephant Graveyard, there are various hyenas in the clan encountering the two cubs whereas in the animated version, only Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed themselves were present when the cubs first arrive in the area. When Simba roars to call for help, Mufasa battles the whole clan to save his son from the hyenas. Mufasa was able to save the cubs as he takes Simba home to teach his son a lesson whenever he gets into danger. Meanwhile, Scar plans on taking over Pride Rock as the king for the hyenas to get more food during the musical number "Be Prepared" after expressing themselves of what Mufasa did to the hyenas.
Meanwhile, when Simba is banished, Scar at Pride Rock explains that Mufasa and Simba are gone, telling him that he is the new king with the hyena clan taking over, putting the Pride Lands in danger. Years later in Pride Rock, the hyena clan is later seen hunting wildebeests and antelopes to deliver more food to the lionesses, much to Scar's tyrannical rule of destroying the Pride Lands.
Back at Pride Rock, Simba, Nala, Timon, Pumbaa, and Zazu come across the deserted Pride Lands where they discover too many hyenas under Scar's rule as the two are told that they must think of a plan to distract the hyenas to get to Pride Rock. A notable difference in this scene is when Timon and Pumbaa perform "Be Our Guest" to distract the hyenas instead of doing the hula scene. The hyenas are then seen present during the final battle against Scar as Scar and the hyenas corner Simba with Scar explaining to him that if he is really a true king or not before trying to fall off the ledge in despondency.
Later, when Scar's cover is blown, the evil king orders the hyenas to kill all the other lions. The hyenas then start attacking Simba during the final battle as Nala calls the other lionesses to fight back. During the battle, Shenzi engages Nala in single combat but loses. Timon, Pumbaa, Zazu, and Rafiki also help fight the hyenas while Simba manages to chase Scar to end his tyranny. Shenzi, Kamari, and Azizi follow to assist Scar, but back down when they overhear his plan to betray them.
Later, after Simba throws Scar off a cliff during the final battle, the remaining hyenas encircle Scar, who plans on building a bigger army to take revenge against Simba. However, the hyenas refuse to listen and reveal that they overheard his betrayal. Scar tries to talk his way out of the situation, but Shenzi, unforgiving, coldly orders her clan to attack their treacherous master. Cornered and outnumbered, Scar tries to fight off the hyenas as they attack him, but is quickly overpowered and eaten alive, ending his tyranny. After Scar's death, the whole hyena clan leaves the Pride Lands.
- Male hyenas are chased out of their birth clans at maturity and join another clan. Females, especially high-ranking females, remain and inherit the rank of their mothers, which may rise or sink. This means it is highly unlikely that Shenzi is the sibling of Banzai or Ed.
- The unnamed hyenas in the film did not have pupils in some scenes, causing them to look far more deranged and depraved.
- Generic hyenas appear to be based on Banzai's looks.
- 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 have depleted, as they had forced the lionesses to overhunting.
- While the hyenas in the movie are referred to as scavengers, real spotted 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. This stereotype is broken in the sequel series.
- In Kingdom Hearts II, except for Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed, all other hyenas are brown.
- While Scar's song "Be Prepared" invokes significant Nazi symbolism, it has other parallels to the rise of the Third Reich and shows a more sympathetic side to the Clan. After Germany lost the First World War, many Germans endured terrible hardship in the economic downturn, and Hitler showed signs of turning this around before he then manipulated and betrayed them for his own ends. Scar makes similar promises to end the starvation and poverty of the hyenas, while never offering power or glory in conquest. From this point of view, they too are victims of Scar's crazed pursuit of power and later incompetence as a ruler.
- Although they are officially a pack of spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta), they have fewer spots, bigger ears, and a streak of mane on their back, line striped hyenas (Hyaena hyaena).
- Originally, the hyenas were supposed to remain loyal to Scar in early drafts of The Lion King. In "King of the Jungle" after Scar is killed, the hyenas were meant to be exiled by Simba to the desert (which is notably similar to how Simba exiled the Outsiders). Though in "King of the Beasts," Simba would've killed the hyenas' leader, Banagi after killing Scar, leading to the hyenas reforming and submitting to Simba. In the original draft of the ending of the film, Scar would've been burned alive after defeating Simba in a vicious fight. Whether or not the hyenas were killed in that draft, or ran away is unknown, however, had this scene made the final draft, the hyenas would've remained loyal to Scar.
- The ending used in one version of the script would have been largely similar to the final ending, only Banzai and Ed would have been absent (presumably killed by Timon and Pumbaa when they were flung into a tree), and the hyenas would not have said anything to Scar beyond laughing dementedly as Scar slowly realizes that they've turned on him.
- It is known what happened to the hyenas after the events of the original film. During the scene in which they killed Scar, they are shown to be engulfed in flames, implying it was meant to cover for Scar to be eaten alive from the hyenas, yet there are other hyenas, shown running off in the battle, and as Nuka states, "They ran off" meaning that some of the hyenas survived the final battle and ran off, and managed to kept the truth of Scar's death, confidential to both Zira and Nuka.
- However, given that the clan actually had young descendants by the time of The Lion Guard, it is clear that most of them survived the fire.
- Also given that in the original script for The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, Banzai and several other hyenas were supposed to return (with Shenzi and Ed notably not at all being mentioned according to Variety implying they died or were given cameos), it's possible that specifically, he out of the hyenas survived the assault on Pride Rock. However, as this is a deleted concept, this could've been changed.
- As the above states, the hyenas were originally intended to return in the sequel as the henchmen of Zira and Kovu. It is unknown whether or not Nuka and Vitani would've appeared, though it is likely they were replacements (Vitani replacing Shenzi, and Nuka replacing Banzai and Ed). The concept was scrapped as the hyenas were the true cause of Scar's death, and as a result, wouldn't ally with his most loyal follower (who was meant to be his mate in that draft) and his successor (who was meant to be his son in that draft), and vice versa had Zira known that. However, given that the Outsiders were the hyenas' replacements, it's likely that the hyenas would've reformed at the end of the film. Had the characters have remained in the film, they would've been one of the several Disney Villain henchmen to reform, notably sporting similarities to Iago as they would've been villains from the original who reform in the sequel.
- Although their role in killing Scar was retained in the Wonderful World of Reading novelization, the motives were slightly different as the narrative implied they killed Scar simply because he lost to Simba due to it saying "Although Scar had worked alongside the Hyenas, they were not loyal to him," with it omitting Scar's earlier attempts at pinning the blame for Mufasa's death on the Hyenas to save his own skin from his nephew that had acted as their motivation for turning against Scar.