Initially, Shenzi and her clan lived in exile from the Pride Lands. They formed a friendship with a member of the royal family named Scar, who recruited them to assist in the murder of Mufasa, the kingdom's reigning monarch, and his heir, Simba. On Scar's orders, Shenzi and her clan instigated a stampede that led to Mufasa's death. The hyenas then made an attempt on Simba's life but failed. However, they reported to Scar and his pride that Simba had died, which allowed Scar to take the throne.
With Scar as the king of the Pride Lands, the hyenas were allowed entry. During Scar's reign, a famine struck the kingdom, stripping the Pride Lands of its former glory and starving both the hyenas and the lionesses. Eventually, a full-grown Simba returned to the Pride Lands to take his place as the rightful king. Shenzi and her clan opposed Simba, supporting Scar's claim to the throne, but Scar betrayed the hyenas to Simba to save his own life. This led them to turn on and kill him.
Shenzi lived in the Elephant Graveyard due to her clan's exile from the Pride Lands. At some point in her life, she became the leader of her clan. She was close friends with two fellow hyenas, Banzai and Ed, as well as a lion named Scar.
Attack on Timon's colony
While on sentry duty for his colony, Timon began to dance and sing. With the meerkat distracted, Shenzi and her cohorts, Banzai and Ed, snuck up behind him. At the conclusion of his song, they clapped and cheered sarcastically, after which they shoved him aside and launched an attack on his colony. The hyenas nearly managed to catch Uncle Max, but he escaped down a hole just in time. Afterward, the trio walked away, guffawing.
Attack on Simba and Nala
When Simba and his friend, Nala, ventured into the Elephant Graveyard, Zazu attempted to get them to leave. However, Simba insisted that he was not afraid and laughed mockingly in front of an elephant skull. Just then, Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed echoed his laughter and emerged from within the skull, while Simba hid behind Zazu in fear. The hyenas approached and remarked that the three were trespassing. Shenzi recognized Zazu as Mufasa's "little stooge," and Zazu clarified that he was the king's majordomo. Simba then asserted his own title as the future king, but the hyenas were not impressed. The three began to plot how they would eat the cubs, during which Simba, Nala, and Zazu managed to escape.
Eventually, the hyenas caught up to Zazu and grabbed him by the tail. They stuffed him into a geyser and watched it erupt, which caused them to burst into laughter. Simba and Nala approached, and Simba told the hyenas to pick on someone their own size. Shenzi pointed out that Simba was their size, and the hyenas gave chase. At one point, Shenzi nearly caught Nala, but Simba stopped her by clawing her across the face. Afterward, the hyenas cornered the cubs against a rock wall and mocked Simba for his piteous roar.
Just then, Mufasa arrived and fought off the hyenas. Though Shenzi and Banzai tried to insist that they had been unaware of Simba's relationship to Mufasa, Ed clarified that he had known, which infuriated Mufasa. The hyenas promptly fled the scene.
Plot to kill Mufasa
That night, Shenzi and Banzai lamented how lions ruled over hyenas. They proceeded to insult lions, calling them such names as "pushy," "hairy," "stinky," and "ugly." Just then, Scar emerged, and the hyenas commented that he was their friend and not nearly as "important" as other lions. They went on that Mufasa was a true example of power, with Shenzi adding that his mere name made her shudder. To tease her, Banzai repeated Mufasa's name over and over again until she was shivering uncontrollably. This disgusted Scar, who called the hyenas "idiots" and chafed at them for calling him their friend.
Though Scar chided the hyenas for their failure to kill Simba and Nala, he still dropped them a haunch of meat for their trouble. As the hyenas began to gorge themselves on the food, Shenzi reminded Scar that the cubs had not been alone, and Banzai questioned if they were expected to kill Mufasa. To their shock and confusion, Scar answered, "Precisely." He then proceeded to outline his plot to assassinate both Mufasa and Simba, and seize the throne of Pride Rock for himself. In exchange for the hyenas' help, he promised to let them enter the Pride Lands and eat to their hearts' content.
The next day, Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed waited for Scar's signal to start a stampede of wildebeests. Though Banzai wanted to eat a wildebeest, Shenzi forbid him from interfering and insisted that they must wait for Scar. Once Scar appeared on a nearby ridge, the hyenas attacked the herd and drove them down into the gorge where Simba was. The plan was a success, as Mufasa died in his attempt to save Simba's life. Afterward, Scar commanded the hyenas to kill Simba. They chased him through the gorge but lost him when he fell into a thorn patch. Assuming that he would die of exposure, they let him go and lied to Scar that they had finished the job.
Under Scar's reign, the Pride Lands suffered a severe famine, and the herds moved on. This left the hyenas and lionesses without anything to eat. One day, Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed confronted Scar about the problem, but he reminded them that it was the lionesses' job to provide food. Banzai pointed out that they were not hunting, so Scar offered up Zazu as food. This only irritated the hyenas and made Banzai remark on how much better Mufasa's reign had been. Incited, Scar asked Banzai to repeat himself, and Shenzi nudged him, which caused him to pretend that he had not mentioned Mufasa. Scar then ordered the hyenas out of his den.
Battle of Pride Rock
A full-grown Simba returned to the Pride Lands and challenged Scar for the throne of Pride Rock. Upon recognizing Simba, Scar expressed shock that he was still alive, then glared up pointedly at the hyenas. They gulped nervously and backed away into the shadows.
Later, when a battle broke out between the hyenas and the lionesses, Shenzi and Banzai chased Timon into Scar's cave. There, the meerkat took shelter with Zazu in a bone cage. Just before the hyenas could eat Timon, Pumbaa showed up, and Banzai asked who the "pig" was. This antagonized Pumbaa, who insisted that he was "Mr. Pig," after which he charged at and beat up the hyenas.
Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed attempted to stop Simba from chasing Scar, but Timon and Pumbaa distracted them by telling an offensive joke about hyenas. The trio fell for the trick and chased Timon and Pumbaa until they had cornered them against a rock wall. While Timon and Pumbaa attempted to stall the hyenas, Ma and Uncle Max dug a trap tunnel beneath them. At one point, Timon got so desperate that he proposed to Shenzi, but she rejected him and declared that their relationship would violate "so many" laws of nature.
Just then, the trap tunnel failed, and Timon decided to jump in and finish it himself. He managed to kick down the last tunnel support, which opened up the ground beneath the hyenas and sent them plummeting to the base of Pride Rock.
Toward the end of the battle, Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed gathered on Pride Rock, where they witnessed Scar betraying them to Simba. After Scar was thrown to the base of Pride Rock, the hyenas met him there and revealed that they had overheard his betrayal. As one, the clan advanced on Scar, attacked him, and ate him alive amidst a fiery blaze.
Shenzi is a moderately sized hyena. She has gray fur, with a pale gray underbelly and dark gray spots on her flanks. While her ears and paws are black, her eye rims and inner ears are dark gray. Her eyes are black with yellow sclerae. Unlike most hyenas, she has a long black mane that ends in bangs over her forehead.
Personality and traits
Of the hyena trio, Shenzi is the most cunning and even-tempered. She rarely loses her composure and is far more focused than her friends, as seen when she did not let Banzai hunt before the assassination of Mufasa. She carries herself with authority, charisma, and drive, and does not struggle to keep her clanmates in line, even when they disagree with her decisions. Though she was initially subservient and loyal to Scar, she changed allegiance once it became clear that he was not looking out for her clan's best interest, and her fellow hyenas were quick to follow her lead.
Shenzi is somewhat sassy and snarky, and tends to make light of situations. She can have a dark sense of humor, such as when she and Banzai exchanged quips about how they were going to eat a young Simba and Nala. Additionally, she made fun of Timon and cracked jokes about his fellow meerkats shortly before trying to eat them. Like most hyenas, she has a voracious appetite and will not easily give up the hunt. Even so, she knows her strengths and will not take unnecessary risks. She refused to fight Mufasa due to his overwhelming physical power and did not pursue Simba into a thorn patch for fear of getting harmed.
Initially, Shenzi considered Scar to be her friend and was willing to follow his every order. However, her trust in him began to waver when the Pride Lands suffered a severe famine, and it shattered completely when he betrayed her clan to Simba. Ultimately, Scar's treachery pushed her to turn on him and enact her vengeance by eating him alive.
- Shenzi was voiced by the following:
- In The Lion King, she was voiced by Whoopi Goldberg.
- In The Lion King 1½, she was voiced by Whoopi Goldberg.
- In The Lion King's Timon & Pumbaa, she was voiced by Tress MacNeille.
- In Kingdom Hearts II, she was voiced by Monie Mon.
- In Simba's Mighty Adventure, she was voiced by Tress MacNeille.
- In Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, she was voiced by Jenifer Lewis.
- In Disney's Animated Storybook: The Lion King, she was voiced by Whoopi Goldberg.
- Shenzi was animated by the following:
- The role of Shenzi in the stage musical version of The Lion King was originated by Tracy Nicole Chapman.
- Shenzi's name means "barbaric, uncouth, uncivilized, savage, barbarous" in Swahili.
- Shenzi is the only hyena from the 1994 film that retains her original name in the 2019 remake. Banzai and Ed are renamed Kamari and Azizi respectively.
- In The Lion King 1½, when Timon proposes to Shenzi, he claims that her full name is "Shenzi Marie Predatora Veldetta Jacquelina Hyena."
- In the stage musical version of The Lion King, Shenzi has two additional songs: "Chow Down" and "The Madness of King Scar".
- A teaser for The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar states that Janja's clan is descended from Shenzi's clan.
- In Issue 49 of The Lion King: A Nature Fun and Learn Series, the "Puzzles" section states that Banzai and Ed are both one year older than Shenzi.
- Shenzi and her fellow hyenas were originally imagined as cape dogs.
- In the January 1990 and May 1990 drafts of The Lion King, the hyenas were represented by two males named Banagi and Baasho. Unlike the hyenas of the final film, they were the true masterminds behind Scar's murder of Mufasa and subsequent rise to the throne.
- Cheech Marin and his fellow comedian Tommy Chong were considered for the roles of the hyenas. However, due to Chong and Marin breaking professional ties, Marin and Whoopi Goldberg were cast instead.
- Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella originally auditioned for the roles of the hyenas but were instead cast as Timon and Pumbaa respectively.