- “I, Madame, am the king's majordomo!”
- ―Zazu to Shenzi
Zazu is a major character in Disney's 1994 animated feature film, The Lion King. He is an uptight, red-billed hornbill that served as majordomo and royal advisor to the Pride Lands monarchy. Zazu is charged with upholding order within the kingdom, though he is rarely taken seriously due to his diminutive size and fragile temper.
- 1 Background
- 2 Appearances
- 3 Musical
- 4 Disney Parks
- 5 Gallery
- 6 Trivia
- 7 References
Zazu has two conflicting histories as to how he became the King's majordomo:
In the book Friends in Need, Young Zazu is about to be cooked and eaten by the three young hyenas (which explains his cry of "Oh, no! Not the birdie boiler!" in the first movie) Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed, when an adolescent Mufasa comes along, frightens off the hyenas and saves him. Zazu is thankful and hopes that he can be of service to the future Lion King someday. Mufasa is doubtful of this. Zazu follows Mufasa around and watches over him. Mufasa quickly gets tired of this as Zazu disturbs his hunts and his private time with his betrothed Sarabi.
One day, Zazu notices some vultures hovering. He asks Mufasa if he wants him to fly over and see what's happening, but Mufasa is not concerned and lies down for a nap. Zazu flies over to where the vultures are anyway and sees that Sarabi has fallen into a pit and can't get out. Zazu flies back to tell Mufasa who leaps up and runs to the gorge. But Mufasa can't find a way to rescue Sarabi. Zazu finds a tree trunk that Mufasa drags over to the pit, allowing Sarabi to climb out. Mufasa realizes that the little hornbill is useful after all and appoints him as the royal adviser.
As the king's majordomo, Zazu is knowledgeable, diplomatic, and stern. He takes his position as a royal advisor very seriously, and carries himself in a no-nonsense—and oftentimes, pompous—manner. Unfortunately, the demanding, and sometimes dangerous nature of his job has left Zazu with a considerable amount of anxiety and emotional instability; he is prone to falling into a panic when things go wrong, and he can be rather irritable and snappish.
Because of his fragile temper and high opinion of himself, Zazu is not taken very seriously by the other characters, specifically Simba and Nala, who would often tease the majordomo as children. Similarly, Scar saw Zazu as nothing more than a pest and repeatedly sought to torment the hornbill when given the chance. Even Mufasa has had his share of fun in teasing Zazu. Nevertheless, Zazu is undoubtedly loyal to the king and has proven his usefulness on numerous occasions. As the king's "eyes and ears", Zazu knows all and tells all, especially when trouble arises. If not for Zazu, Simba and Nala would have very well met their demise at the jaws of the hyenas, as it was he who had informed Mufasa of the danger before things could take a turn for the worse.
Zazu is also shown to have a sense of humor, as he was able to make a joke about turning Scar into a throw rug (to which he adds that Mufasa can "take him out and beat him whenever he gets dirty"). He also has a quirky habit of sliding blatant puns into his morning reports.
As King Mufasa's majordomo and close friend (he is one of the few who calls Mufasa by his name), Zazu is very serious and always sticks to the rules.
He is first seen in the film during the opening sequence in which Simba is presented. He later confronts Scar on his absence from the ceremony and is almost eaten by him until Mufasa arrives. When Scar leaves, Zazu humorously suggests to Mufasa that Scar would make an excellent rug.
When Simba has grown into a cub, Zazu is often ridiculed by him, being the target in Simba's pouncing lessons. He is ordered to watch over Simba and Nala by Sarabi when Simba claims he wants to go to the waterhole with Nala. In fact, Simba has earlier been lured by Scar to go to the Elephant Graveyard, and after the song "I Just Can't Wait to Be King", Simba and Nala successfully lose Zazu and go to the graveyard. Zazu later catches up with them, but they encounter the three hyenas Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed. Zazu is inserted into the hyenas' "birdie boiler" geyser, which rockets him up to the sky. He manages to find Mufasa and lead him to the cubs, just in time to save them from the hyenas, although it is also implied shortly after the hyenas flee that Mufasa, in addition to being upset with Simba for deliberately disobeying him by going to the Elephant Graveyard, is also upset at Zazu for failing to keep watch on the cubs. Zazu is then ordered to take Nala home while Mufasa has a word with Simba.
During the wildebeest stampede engineered by Scar and his minions to kill both his brother and nephew, it is Zazu who leads Mufasa to Simba. As he watches the stampede, he wants to go back for help but is struck by Scar into a wall and rendered unconscious. After Mufasa is killed by Scar and Simba runs away, Zazu is seen comforting Sarabi when Scar informs the pride that both Mufasa and Simba have been killed in the stampede. He and the pride are then seen watching in horror as Scar allows the hyenas into the Pride Lands.
Zazu also briefly appears years later, in a scene after Scar has assumed the kingship of the Pride Lands. In this scene, Zazu is imprisoned in a cage made of rib bones and rocks and is being forced to entertain Scar by singing songs like "Nobody Knows the Troubles I've Seen" and "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts" (but not before briefly singing the lyrics of "It's a Small World"). When the hyenas come in to complain about the lack of food and water, Scar casually tells them to eat Zazu (although Scar also likely suggested to the hyenas that they eat Zazu specifically as revenge for Zazu earlier mentioning Scar's brother in a favorable light compared to Scar under his breath), and he frantically insists that he'd be "so tough and gamey and eyugh!", although the hyenas ultimately decide not to eat him, unknowingly agreeing with Zazu about Mufasa being better.
Later on, Simba returns to reclaim his throne. The lionesses, Timon, Pumbaa, and Rafiki battle the hyenas while Simba battles his uncle. Zazu pleads Timon to let him out of the ribcage he is imprisoned in, but Timon goes inside the ribcage instead as he is pursued by the hyenas. Pumbaa comes to the rescue and chases away the hyenas after Banzai inadvertently insults him. Zazu is freed along with Timon and joins the two in chasing them away and doing a victory yell. After Scar is overthrown and killed, Zazu is seen at Simba's ascension to the throne and during the presentation of Simba and Nala's newborn cub.
Zazu plays a minor role in the film, functioning mostly as a messenger. He is first seen at Kiara's presentation, signaling that everyone has gathered. He is next seen when Simba is lecturing Kiara before she goes out to play, and Zazu mentions the dangers of the Outsiders, calling them backstabbing and murderous. Years later on Kiara's first solo hunt, Zazu assured a pacing Simba not to worry, that his daughter will be fine, and asked what could happen; but when a wildfire starts, he is sent ahead to find her.
When Zazu finds that Kiara is being rescued by Kovu, he reports the information back to Simba. After Kovu asks a skeptical Simba to join the pride, an equally skeptical Zazu notes that royal protocol demands that debts (such as the one Simba owes Kovu for rescuing Kiara) must be repaid, though Zazu would be quite happy to make an exception and even suggests that Simba should do so, making it clear he didn't trust Kovu any more than Simba did. Later, after Simba returned injured from an ambush by Kovu's mother Zira, and the Outsiders, he is sent by Kiara to find help. Finally, near the end of the film, he appears in a panic, reporting to Simba that the Outsiders are preparing to attack stating "It's war!"
In the end, Zazu is seen standing next to Timon and Pumbaa at the presentation of Kiara and Kovu's wedding. Timon and Pumbaa start crying with happiness and Zazu covers himself from the wetness of their tears, seeming annoyed by the duo.
Zazu's appearances are extremely brief in The Lion King 1½. He is first seen at the presentation of Simba, talking to Mufasa. He is then seen going to rescue Simba from the hyenas with Mufasa. In the credits for this film, he is incorrectly listed as "Zasu".
Zazu appears as a recurring character in the series starring Timon and Pumbaa. He, like Rafiki and the hyenas, has also had a few standalone episodes. In "Once Upon a Timon", Zazu is researching the reasons that Timon became an outcast. He eventually learns the reasons from Rakifi, and the story becomes so engrossing, that Zazu forgets about a meeting with Simba.
"Zazu's Off Day Off" has Zazu being forced to work on his day off when an elephant is blocking the flow of the river.
"Zazu's Off-by-One Day" shows that Zazu is responsible for taking a census of the animals. However, he is fired by the jungle inspector when it's discovered that he missed one animal. As a result, his job is given to his gopher assistant. In an attempt to regain his job, Zazu searches for the animal he missed, only to discover that it was himself.
In the animated series, Zazu is presented as a crucial part of Simba's life as King of the Pride Lands, serving as the lion's advisor and mentor of sorts. Though they share a healthy relationship, now that Simba is an adult, their interactions occasionally echo that displayed during Simba's childhood, with Zazu giving words of advice to the lion, only to be met with a response of childish annoyance. This is prominently displayed throughout the episode "Can't Wait to be Queen", where Simba, Nala, and Zazu travel to a funeral being held for an elderly elephant who was a good friend to Simba. Zazu, throughout the events of the episode, is shown to have become far more patient and optimistic, though still pompous and talkative, much to Nala's amusement. Simba often looks to Zazu for guidance and sees him as a confidante, which the hornbill prides himself as.
In "The Savannah Summit", Zazu accompanies Simba and other leaders within the Pride Lands to a summit discussing ways of bettering the kingdom for all species. In during which, he finds himself in the middle of an issue between a rhino and a baboon, much to Rafiki's amusement.
In "The Morning Report", Scar (having returned as a fiery spirit with hopes of ruling the Pride Lands) sends his new hyena lackeys to capture and interrogate Zazu so that they may learn Simba's strengths and weaknesses. Zazu cleverly keeps from relaying any useful information long enough for the Lion Guard to rescue him.
Zazu appears in the 2019 remake of the animated film voiced by John Oliver. This incarnation of Zazu has a plumage of darker feathers instead of blue feathers to make him resemble his real-life counterpart. However, he retains his whitish underparts to resemble his real-life counterpart.
Zazu is first seen flying to Pride Rock where he greets Mufasa at the beginning of the film where Simba is about to be presented to the animals. After the ceremony, Zazu tells Scar that Mufasa is coming to scold him because he is furious that Scar was not present during Simba's presentation. Scar tries to eat him, but Mufasa stops him as he and Mufasa argue over Scar's right in becoming the king, with Zazu becoming supportive with Mufasa. After Scar walks off, Zazu then tells a story about his cousin whom he thinks he's a woodpecker (Zazu's cousin was not mentioned in the animated version).
Zazu later appears giving Mufasa and Simba a morning report. Giving the report, Mufasa teaches Simba how to pounce while Zazu flies around to know if there is news in the Pride Lands. Returning to Simba and Mufasa, Zazu gives the news that there are hyenas invading the Pride Lands. Mufasa plans to take care of the hyenas while telling Zazu to bring Simba back home.
Meanwhile, when Simba talks to his best friend Nala about taking her to the water hole, Sarabi then asks the two cubs can only go if they bring Zazu to protect them. Zazu then takes the two cubs to the location Simba requested where he tells them that the two will be married in the future. Simba and Nala, however, are disgusted when Zazu tells the two that they will be married. Simba explains that he does not have to marry Nala, but Zazu explains that a wedding is a tradition that cannot be broken. During the musical number "I Just Can't Wait to Be King", Simba and Nala plan on losing Zazu in which the two successfully lose him where he is chased by weaverbirds instead of being crushed by a rhino in the animated version.
Meanwhile, at the Elephant Graveyard, Zazu finds the cubs exploring the area Simba shouldn't go to and protects the two from Shenzi. He then gives Shenzi a warning that if she attacks Simba, it can lead to a war between Mufasa and Scar; Shenzi tells her clan to attack the cubs but Mufasa arrives and saves Simba and Nala from the ambush. Soon as Mufasa takes Simba and Nala back to the Pride Lands, he tells Zazu to bring Nala back to his mother while Zazu tells Simba's father to go easy on him, reminding him what "he" was like as a cub.
At the gorge when Zazu sees the wildebeest stampede, Scar tells Zazu to alert the lions that Simba is in danger while he tells Mufasa to save Simba clinging on a dead tree in which Mufasa could not return to Pride Rock back in time as Scar leaves Mufasa to die in the stampede. Back at Pride Rock, Zazu and Rafiki listen to Scar's plan on becoming the new king from a distance instead of standing near the mourning lionesses listening to Scar telling them that Mufasa and Simba are both dead.
Years later after Scar becomes king, one notable difference in this film was instead of being his pet while imprisoned in a rib-cage after Scar took reign, Scar banished him under penalty of being eaten by the hyenas. While banished, Zazu then notices the hyena clan is overhunting and destroying the Pride Lands where he sees the disaster Scar is doing, but he still snuck into Pride Rock to report to Sarabi, who he considered the true ruler much to Sarabi calling her daughter-in-law to get used to living in Pride Rock with Scar as the new king. Later that night, Zazu tells Nala to return to Pride Rock before the hyenas eat her but Nala refuses to listen as she notices Scar approaching her. Just as Scar and the hyenas prepare to bring Nala back to Pride Rock, Zazu also helped Nala escape by distracting Scar (which did not happen in the original animated version) so that Scar wouldn't keep forcing her to hunt for more food due to Scar's plan on overhunting to destroy the Pride Lands much to Sarabi's worry that she might lose her.
When Simba returns to Pride Rock, Zazu feels proud that Simba is back to his home. During the final battle against Scar, Zazu is also seen present in helping fight against the hyenas whereas, in the animated version, Zazu is still imprisoned until Pumbaa charges into the cage after the hyenas bother him. Also, in that scene, Rafiki helps save Zazu being attacked by the hyenas whereas, in the animated version, it was Simba.
After Scar's death, Zazu and everyone else in the Pride Lands is proud of Simba's victory against Scar. He is last seen at the end of the film where he attends the presentation of Simba and Nala's newborn cub.
In the Activity Center of the movie, Zazu serves as the main guide for every activity any time the player needs help.
In "Runaway Brain", Zazu makes two cameo appearances.
In House of Mouse, Zazu appeared in "Donald's Pumbaa Prank" as lunch for Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed and nearly eaten, and Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse, seen perched atop Rafiki's staff.
For the Walt Disney Platinum Edition DVD of The Lion King, a computer-animated Zazu served as the host of disc one's main menu.
In the mini-series, It's a Small World: The Animated Series, Zazu makes a brief, non-speaking cameo in the episode "One Golden Sun".
In The Lion King musical, Zazu is a puppet controlled by an actor dressed in blue striped clothes and a bowler hat much like a stereotypical butler. Zazu's blue feathers have been replaced with white and the puppet is partially constructed from parachute silk with a slinky contained in the neck for ease in movement.
Zazu, like in the Platinum Edition of the film, sings the song The Morning Report before being pounced on by Simba. The musical version of the song is longer than its film counterpart (in the Spanish version of the musical and in recent performances starting in 2010, the "Morning Report" is deleted, leaving the song not included in the recently-performed regional albums).
In certain English productions of the show (and in the Spanish one), Zazu breaks the fourth wall. In the original Broadway production when, being blocked by curtains at the beginning of the "I Just Can't-Wait to Be King" number, shouts out "This didn't happen in the movie!" or "These look like shower curtains from Target!" (Ikea in some productions) and also, at the end of the number, the puppet is taken from his head and he cries out "Give me back my bird!" The Memphis tour changes the curtain reference to "Graceland"; the London production "IKEA", and the Hawaii production "Hilo Hattie". The Toronto production had him make references to Honest Ed's, the original business of the theater's owner, Ed Mirvish. Zazu also attacks his puppeteer, stating, "This is your fault!"
In the Spanish production, he uses: "This didn't happen in the movie"; "This is your fault!" and (speaking to the conductor): "Stop this!".
Zazu takes part in the jungle-themed unit in Mickey's Soundsational Parade.
Also in the park, Zazu makes a cameo in Mickey's PhilharMagic during Simba's "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" sequence.
Zazu is featured in The Legend of the Lion King stage show in Disneyland Paris, where he reluctantly assists Timon and Pumbaa in creating a reenactment of the film in honor of Simba. He was also in Disney's Once Upon a Dream Parade, as part of the jungle-themed float's decor.
A statue of Zazu can also be seen in the Adventureland area in the jungle section, next to a statue of Kaa.
In the Hong Kong park, Zazu is featured in the Flights of Fantasy Parade.
In Shanghai, Zazu appears during the performance of "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" in the Ignite the Dream fireworks show.
- Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge's first Abyssinian ground hornbill chick is named after Zazu and dubbed his cousin.
- Zazu has shown the ability to hover in mid-air, a very difficult flying ability. The only real-life birds capable of this are the hummingbird and certain birds-of-prey like the kestrel, the latter doing so to pinpoint prey; birds-of-prey also cannot do so indefinitely.
- Zazu is voiced by Rowan Atkinson, an already well-established British actor and comedian, in The Lion King. Whilst admonishing Scar for not attending Simba's presentation ceremony, Zazu states that the King is "as mad a hippo with a hernia". This is a possible nod to Blackadder, a long-running British historical comedy series in which Atkinson played the leading role, and who has a strong tendency to use simile in this manner when being sarcastic. However, it is unlikely that many younger viewers, especially outside the UK, would realize this.