- “A symphony of death, oh my! That's my lullaby!”
- ―Zira singing "My Lullaby"
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 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, thus destroys her in the end. Zira does seem to care for her family and her Pride, despite her vindictive nature, showing horror and sadness when Nuka dies, and pride when Nuka and Vitani say or do things that appeal to her plan. Although Zira hates Simba completely, her interactions with the rest of the pride are comparatively neutral, which is especially evident in her introduction: When Simba and Zira encounter each other when the latter attempts to ambush Kiara, after identifying Simba in a tone that obviously implies that she is excited at the opportunity to exact revenge, she sees the rest of the pride, Timon and Pumbaa arrive with Simba and identifies Nala curtly.
Shortly before the end of The Lion King, Zira was Scar's most devoted of his followers, revering him with a fanatic-worship 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 holds Simba responsible for Scar's death (unaware or ignoring the true cause of Scar's death), and plots to both avenge Scar and take back the throne, using Kovu as a puppet ruler. Zira and her followers became known as Outsiders.
Apart from her total devotion to Scar and her desire to avenge him, Zira also shows a deep contempt for other animals and especially for hyenas. This is especially seen in the song "Lions Over All" where she exclaims the superiority of lions.
She is a lioness with dark coloration. Her fur is grayish-tan with a cream muzzle, underbelly, and paws. She has red eyes, black eyebrows, dark brown upper eye patches, eyelids and white under patches, a black, pointy triangular nose, one notched ear (the history of which is never revealed), and a dark stripe down the center of her head.
Zira was the mother of Nuka, Vitani, and Kovu and the leader of Scar's followers The Outsiders. After Simba deposed his uncle and banished the Outsiders to the Outlands, Zira vowed revenge for Scar, accusing Simba for the King's murder. Her youngest son, Kovu, was Scar's chosen heir (despite not being related to Scar), and Zira dreams that he could one day kill and usurp Simba. Zira first appears when Kovu eventually wanders off into the Pride Lands (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 herself protectively in front of Kovu and makes a bitter conversation with Simba (and to Nala, Timon, Pumbaa, and the lionesses who followed). In a mocking gesture of Simba's demand she pays 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 lion tells them to leave, Zira approaches him and darkly tells him their business has just begun and gives Kiara a knowingly malicious glare; despite this, Zira walks off with her son in her mouth and 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 trains Kovu as a killer with hate in his heart for Simba. When he becomes a teenager, she engineers a plan to start a fire so that Kovu could save Kiara's life and get close to Simba to gain his trust and eventually kill him.
She observes Kovu with Nuka from a distance, pleased with the plan's progress, and everything was going according to her scheme. However, Vitani reports that Kovu had the chance to murder Simba but didn't take it. Zira is determined to continue with her plan, though, and she quickly devises 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 him. However, when Kovu goes against his mother's wishes to kill Simba, Nuka tries to carry it out instead to gain his mother's attention and approval. However, he ends up being crushed by the falling logs and dying, and ironically, through his death, he finally gained the attention and affection of his mother. Zira deeply mourns her son's death while silently asking Scar to watch over Nuka. Her grief turns to pure wrath, and she slashes Kovu across the eye, giving him a wound identical to Scar. After her initial shock at this, Zira scolds Kovu for causing the death of Nuka by not lifting a paw to kill Simba and therefore having a part in Nuka's demise.
Zira, furious at Simba's "corruption" of Kovu and Nuka's death, then declares open war on Simba, and launches an attack on Pride Rock, using the opportunity of Simba's injured state from being attacked by the Outlanders. Zira arrives 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, stopping their respective parents from killing the other, to 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.
Vitani sees the truth of Kiara's words and joins Simba, convincing the other Outsiders that enough is enough, though Zira tells her daughter that she will die as well if she doesn't fight. These words visibly shock and disgust her lionesses, who, as a result, leave her and join Simba, much to Zira's shock and anger. Simba urges Zira to let go of the past, but she refuses and leaps at him, still intent on killing him to avenge Scar. Kiara stops her, 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 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 enemy's daughter, and she rejects Kiara's help, only to finally fall off the cliff into the water and get washed away with the current, with only her paw reaching out of the surface limply. Having witnessed this, Kovu then sighs in deep pain at her demise.
Despite Zira's death, her (as well as Scar's) original plan to have Kovu as the new King of the Pride Lands is most likely to succeed, but not for her own satisfaction as Kovu wants to rule under the principles of the Circle of Life, which inspired a touched Simba to accept Kovu as his son-in-law and future successor.
Zira's backstory is elaborated on by Rafiki in the episode; when Scar was defeated, she tried to explain to Simba that he couldn't be king, as Scar chose Kovu to succeed him. Simba tried to reason that his uncle was never the true king but Zira would not listen to reason and fought him in battle. Simba defeated her and forced Zira and her entire family to leave the Pride Lands. During her exile, sometime between hatching the plot to use Kovu to get to Simba through Kiara and Kovu's coming of age, she and her pride stole the territory of a group of hyenas led by Jasiri living in the Outlands. Zira also tried to convince Simba's son and leader of the Lion Guard Kion to be her apprentice and join her side to make lions reach the top of the Pride Lands in order to prove them superior. She also knew something that Kion did not know about the Roar of the Elders; that he could use the Roar on clouds to create small amounts of rain to make new watering holes (something she learned from Scar himself). She only reveals her true vicious colors after Kion denounces her beliefs of Scar being the true king, and she reveals her angry spite and viciousness.
Zira sets a trap for Kion, leaving him surrounded by Outsiders and giving him a choice to be with them or against them, saying he can't use the Roar on his own kind, lest he loses his power as Scar had. Zira then becomes furious when Kion dares to say that Scar was never the true king of the Pride Lands and almost lets her lionesses attack him but quickly regains her composure and gives Kion some more time to make up his mind. Zira then tries to trick Jasiri into thinking that Kion has sided with the Outsiders. However, when the rest of the Lion Guard and Jasiri arrive and rescue him, Kion remembers why his great-uncle really lost the roar. Zira then realizes this too late (though she refuses to believe it) as she is blasted away along with Nuka, Vitani, and the other Outsiders (except for Kovu, who leaves at his own accord), to a lair in the termite mounds of the Outlands which is similar to the one depicted in Simba's Pride.
In the finale, as well as the Simba's Pride sequel, "Return to the Pride Lands", the Lion Guard return home to find out that Vitani and Kovu have joined Simba's pride and that Zira and Nuka are gone. The events of the previous film is later explained in a cave painting that states that during the Lion Guard's stay at the Tree of Life, Zira attacked the Pride Lands, only for her pride to betray her in the end, resulting in her death.
Kion and his Lion Guard face Vitani to see which of their Lion Guards would protect the Pride Lands. In the end, while Kovu was named Simba's successor to becoming King with Kiara as his Queen, Vitani is named the new leader of the Lion Guard, entrusted with the Roar of the Elders, while Kion and his Lion Guard return to defend the Tree of Life with the Night Pride. Thus, Zira's two surviving children now carried important roles in the Pride Lands with Kovu as heir and Vitani as head of the Lion Guard.
Zira appears in the 2000 video game The Lion King: Simba's Mighty Adventure as one of the two bosses (the other being Scar) where she battles Simba with a roar that would cause rocks to fall towards Simba which he has to dodge before finally defeating her.
Zira appears in the seventh book the insider as the same as her film counterpart she is near-religiously loyal to Scar. She and other OT minions were after the Keepers, who used they DHI states to launch earthquake debris at 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. However, although this concept was cut, Zira's death in the finished version of the film is still implied to be a suicide, or just an accident, as if you look closely, you can see that she's smiling, though this could be just her muzzle. Moreover, as she's gradually losing her grip, in the final version is visible how her position changes, because at first is seen how her fangs are about to reach the lower edge of the cliff and then, just before she falls, she is in a much higher position.
- 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 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.
- She told Kovu that he betrayed his pride, which is exactly what Scar did when he allowed the hyenas to invade.
- 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 (then-named Bianca) was originally going to be Scar's mate and the mother of his cub Nunka (who would later become Kovu), who would seduce Aisha (Kiara's original name). Because this would be incest, due to Nunka and Aisha being first cousins once removed, the relationship was obscured to make Zira "a follower" of Scar, and Nunka became Kovu and was instead Scar's adopted son. Some media suggests that Zira at best, was romantically attracted to Scar.
- When Kovu's training is being reviewed, the notch in Zira's ear switches sideways to the other ear.
- In some Lion King 2: Simba's Pride reading books, her eyes are mistakenly colored dark blue or dark green.
- Kovu eventually will become the Pride Land's King, meaning Zira actually succeeded with her plan to fulfill Scar's dying wish, but not to avenge his death by killing Simba. It also fulfills Mufasa's wish and hopes that both the Pridelanders and Outsiders got rejoined through Kovu and Kiara, while presumably taking into account Scar's dying wish (despite his murder of him).
- Zira's role as a follower to Scar contradicts the events of the first film, where all the lionesses present at the time were followers of Mufasa and Simba and had fought beside Simba against Scar. It was later revealed in The Lion Guard that she and Scar were very close and that he shared his knowledge of the Roar of the Elders with her, which perfectly supports the contradiction. However, it's possible that she and the Outsider lionesses were still away hunting and just returned after Simba reclaimed the throne.
- Zira, McLeach, 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 as its main antagonist.
- Bette Midler and Helen Mirren were considered for the role of Zira before the late Suzanne Pleshette was cast.
- Her name means "hatred" in Swahili.
- She has no mark on her head in The Lion Guard, except in Rafiki's painting.