In the original script, Banagi harbored hatred for Mufasa over the course of many years, wishing the king to be dead. The grudge is less personal in the second draft.
The Lion King (January 1990)
Banagi makes his first appearance when an oblivious Simba and Nala wander into his territory. After attempting to trick the cubs into climbing into his mouth, the hyena gives chase, though he is soon warded off by Kwashi, who snatches up Simba, and Mufasa, who protects Nala while his loyal tickbird Zazu pecks at Banagi's retreating form.
Not long after this, Banagi is angered at Mufasa for taking claim to his pride's catch. While the hyenas wait on the outskirts of the carcass, the lionesses take their fill. When the pride is ready to retreat, Simba spots Banagi and roars a "kittenish roar" in his direction. Banagi merely looks away when faced by the cub's mother, Sarabi.
Banagi is later seen among his clan when a rogue lion named Scar challenges Mufasa to a fight for dominance. After the fight, Banagi tracks down the loser and compliments him on his fighting techniques. He then blames Zazu for Scar's defeat and convinces the witless rogue to join forces with the hyenas in order to defeat Mufasa. It takes a bit longer to convince his clan, though he ultimately wins them over with the notion that they will be made into kings come Scar's victory.
The plan goes underway, and Banagi leads his clan in building ranks around Scar as he challenges Mufasa. The hyenas join the attack, driving Mufasa back with Scar gaining the upper paw. With no chance of defeating his foes, Mufasa dies, and Banagi orders the hyenas to run in pursuit of Simba.
As Scar gains control over the hyenas, Banagi calms his every nerve, convincing him that Nala is interested in him, even though she is clearly terrified. He later orders the lionesses to hunt for Baasho following the lieutenant's weary return from killing Simba.
With Scar getting more and more certain with his power as king, Banagi milks every advantage, harassing the lionesses to their limits. When Scar begins to show more interest in Nala, Banagi grows suspicious, fearing for his own rank among Scar's companions. When Baasho is caught spying on the two in the forest, Banagi pleads for his friend's innocence. Scar then turns on Nala, fueled by Baasho's accusations, and Banagi struggles to calm his frenzied leader.
Nala flees for her life, and Scar runs in pursuit, with Banagi and his followers in tow. As the battle begins, Banagi leads his clan to help Scar, but the hyenas are dispersed when baboons throw rocks at them from the trees. Banagi and his followers put up a fair fight against the baboons, but their attacks diminish completely when the lionesses seize control of the clan and drag the leaders before Simba, who banishes them to the desert. Banagi runs for his life alongside Baasho.
King of the Beasts (May 1990)
Banagi is first seen alongside Baasho and other members of his clan, attempting to intimidate a rogue hyena into joining their ranks. In the midst of the meeting, Simba crashes into the clearing, pursued by an angry warthog. With a quick nod from Banagi, Baasho and his clan mates spring into action, driving the warthog away and saving the young prince from further harm. In the face of his rescuer, Simba is in awe, and when the cub finally returns to his mother, he can't stop talking about Banagi. Sarabi, however, is upset that Mufasa is now in the hyena's debt.
Sure enough, when the pride manages to catch a kudu, Mufasa gives the prey to Banagi and his clan in repayment for saving his son's life. The hyenas accept the offer and feast on the kill until they are driven away by Scar, a rogue lion. Enraged, Mufasa drives the rogue back, and Banagi watches with interest, his gaze fixed intensely on Scar.
Later that night, Baasho alerts his leader to Scar's presence, and Banagi attempts to sway the lion to their side. At first, the rogue is not interested in the hyena's claims, but when Banagi reveals an army of hyenas hiding at the top of the ridge, the lion agrees, and Banagi proceeds to tell him about their proposition.
The following day, Banagi lies to Mufasa that Scar is holding Baasho captive and wishes to fight the king at the fire tree bridge. At high noon, Mufasa confronts Scar, and a fight instigates. When Scar begins to weaken, Banagi and his cronies come to the rogue's aid, only to be roared away, as Scar wishes to face Mufasa alone. After Scar defeats the king, Banagi orders his hyenas to kill Simba and not return without his tail between their teeth.
With Scar now a king, Banagi and his clan are given wonderful privileges. Banagi's suspicions are raised, however, when Scar begins to grow close to Nala, causing the wary hyena to instruct his cronies to kill the lioness if she becomes too much of a threat. Daabi, a friend of Simba, happens to overhear the conversation and proceeds to warn Nala, who runs away before the hyenas can be rid of her.
The next morning, Nala approaches Scar at the riverbank and informs him that a new lion wishes to face him in a fight at the fire tree bridge. Banagi arrives, overhearing the conversation, and attempts to persuade Scar to not accept the new arrival's challenge, but Nala convinces Scar to fight the stranger anyway, and the king forbids Banagi to watch.
In dejection, and under Scar's orders, Banagi escorts Nala back to Pride Rock, where she fakes a fight with Sarabi over Scar's affections. Despite the diversion, Banagi notices Zazu flitting away and orders his clan after the tickbird. The hyenas follow Zazu straight to the fight between Scar and Simba, and, despite Scar's anger, Banagi insists on watching, even though Scar forbids him and his clan to participate. Insulted but wise enough to keep his mouth shut, the hyena steps aside and instructs Baasho to kill the winner.
The fight goes underway, and Simba emerges the victor, killing Scar and taking his title as king. Simba then calls Banagi to him, but the hyena orders his minions to attack the king. In obedience to their leader, the hyenas surge forward, but Simba grabs a horrified Banagi in his teeth and uses his body to knock aside the oncoming clan. After the hyenas are defeated, Simba ruthlessly throws Banagi off a cliff, and the hyena falls, screaming, to his demise. With their leader dead, Baasho and the remaining hyenas bow before Simba, accepting him as their new king.
Personality and traits
The Lion King (January 1990)
In earlier versions of the script, Banagi is portrayed as being more like the hyenas of the final film, selfish and wild with goofy attributes to his personality. He is considerably short-tempered, prone to ignoring Baasho's level-headedness in favor of his own rash nature. Despite this, his rise to power can be traced back to his own natural charisma, as he is able to bring a powerful rogue lion to his side with just a few words.
Like the hyenas of the final film, Banagi is glutinous and greedy, craving the treats of higher species and willing to rule over them in order to get what they have; not that he is willing to do any of the work himself. Banagi works in the background, a puppet master, controlling his cronies in order to meet his own ends. Not even his good friend Baasho is treated as an equal. Banagi reigns supreme, and whatever he wants, he gets.
King of the Beasts (May 1990)
In the second version of the script, Banagi is a master manipulator, able to use charm and sweet words in order to win over allies. His politeness remains intact throughout the script, in conversation and in threats, and his temper rarely flares, even when he is angered or offended. Banagi tends to use subtle hints at fear to intimidate his subordinates into complying, parrying his tendency to vent and yell in the first script.
Around those of higher rank, Banagi is a good actor, able to make himself seem insignificant and small, even as he uses invisible strings to move his puppets from place to place. He is considerably good at flattery and often builds hollow defeats into stunning victories. If, somehow, his plan is thrown off course, he is quick to react. So long as things are going his way, he is content, but one tip of the scale in another creature's favor, and Banagi is ready for change.
- The first part of Banagi's name ("bana") means "compress" in Swahili.
- Banagi is described as having a voice like that of Sydney Greenstreet.
- Although Banagi is written as the leader of his clan, a hyena clan is realistically led by a female (like Shenzi does in the finished film).