Shenzi, Banzai and Ed are a trio of villainous spotted hyenas who first appeared in Disney's 1994 Disney animated film The Lion King and its midquel as the loyal followers and minions of Scar, and would later re-appear in one parallel and one spin-off series.
While not especially bright, the hyenas do display a degree of competence rarely associated with comic-relief lackeys, generally foiled by their adversaries' own luck. They corner Simba (foiled only by Mufasa's unexpected rescue), successfully drive the stampede into the gorge, and would have captured the young Simba had he not escaped through the thorn bushes through which they couldn't pass. Despite this, and their loyalty to Scar, he has an extremely low opinion of them, considering them to be stupid and incompetent. He also abuses them verbally and physically throughout the movie several times.
Throught the movie, the hyenas display their inner personalities. When they meet Simba, they pretend to be strong and powerful, but they become cowardly when Simba's father Mufasa comes. They reveal their inner weakness and cowardice when they are in danger, but they act superior when they meet animals weaker than themselves.
The hyenas were also featured in two spin-off books of The Lion King, set before the events of the original film. In A Tale of Two Brothers, the young hyenas appear at the beginning where they surround a helpless Rafiki who had just arrived in the Pride Lands. King Ahadi comes to the rescue just in time, with his sons Mufasa and Taka (Scar), and demands that the hyenas leave. The hyenas appear again later, where Shenzi advises Scar to make himself look good by making Mufasa look bad. Scar decided to incite a Cape Buffalo called Boma to fight Mufasa. The plan did not turn out well, and Scar's eye was wounded by the buffalo herd in the process, hence the nickname "Scar".
In Friends in Need, the teenage hyenas appear again at the beginning, where they are preparing to boil a teenage Zazu in the elephant graveyard like in the first film. A teenage Mufasa passes by, scares the hyenas away, and befriends Zazu.
Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed have varying characteristics, but they overall have one common personality trait: insanity as well as a somewhat unnatural and almost sick liking of taunting their prey. This trait is especially apparent when they first meet Nala and Simba, where Banzai and Shenzi start cracking jokes relating to eating them (Banzai: Yeah, we could have whatever's... 'lion' around! (laughs). Shenzi: Oh, wait, wait, wait, I got one, I got one. Make mine a cub sandwich! Whatcha think? (laughs)).
Shenzi (voiced by Whoopi Goldberg) is the only female of the trio. According to Timon in The Lion King 1½, her full name is Shenzi Marie Predatora Veldetta Jacquelina Hyena. Her name means "savage", "pagan", "uncouth", or "barbarous" in Swahili. Her distinguishing features are five prominent bangs hanging over her face and a mane that reaches all the way to her bangs. She also lacks the dark grey 'stubble' snout of the males, the dark patches around her eyes are shaped to resemble heavily applied eye-shadow, and she has thicker lips with what seems to be black lipstick.
She is assertive, collected and possesses a considerable amount of self-control, only very rarely losing her temper. This makes her the de facto leader of the trio, and apparently the Matriarch of the clan of hyenas. Her authority is so absolute that she has no need to exert physical force over other hyenas - Banzai and Ed consistently follow her orders without her needing to fight them - whether they are to stop fighting, remain where they are, or even to lie to Scar.
Shenzi's primary concern is the well-being of her Clan. She allies the Clan with Scar even though the hyenas dislike the lions simply to provide for them, tells Scar that Simba is dead to get them into the Pride Lands, and is even unafraid of informing him that there's no food or water left, meaning the Clan is starving. When Scar tries to pin Mufasa's death on the hyenas at the end, she doesn't hesitate to inform the Clan of his betrayal, resulting in his elimination. And in Simba's Pride, she presumably has taken the Clan away from the Elephant Graveyard to find better hunting grounds.
Shenzi was originally going to be male and played by Tommy Chong, reuniting him with his old comedy partner Cheech Marin, who was playing Banzai, but apparently the two had had a falling out. Many of Shenzi's facial expressions and voice were copied from her voice actress, Whoopi Goldberg.
Banzai (voiced by Cheech Marin) is the most aggressive of the trio. Unlike the calmer, more intelligent Shenzi, he has almost no self-control and is always ready to lash out or start a fight. However, because he thinks with his muscles first and his head second, and has a tendency to speak without thinking, he is not the leader of the trio and always submits to Shenzi, consistently obeying her orders.
His name means "skulk" or "lurk" in Swahili. It can also mean "die with honor" or "ten thousand years" in Japanese, possibly a reference to his aggressive nature but more likely coincidental. His most distinguishing feature is his unusually heavy eyebrows. Apart from these, he is the model for most generic hyenas. He is the greediest of the three, frequently making references to being hungry, and asking for food. He also usually speaks and acts without thinking, losing his temper with Ed twice, and complaining when the Pride Lands lacks food under Scar's rule ("It's dinnertime, and we ain't got no stinkin' entrees!"). He even quietly remarks to his friends that Mufasa was a better king than Scar. In addition, when about to commence the Wildebeest Stampede, he almost tried to kill and eat a sick Wildebeest before Scar gave them the signal, but was stopped by Shenzi, reminding him about waiting for Scar's signal.
He is wounded twice in the film, the first time in taking the worst injuries, Banzai's buttocks were severely lacerated by Mufasa's sharp claws, causing him to be unable to sit down for a week, (I won't be able to sit for a week) he tells Shenzi and Ed , and secondly when he is knocked into a thorn patch while chasing Simba out of the Pride Lands.
Ed (voiced by Jim Cummings) is one of the few characters not to have a Swahili name. However, there exists in English the word eddy meaning whirlpool.
Ed is apparently the 'crazy guy' of the trio. His distinguishing features are two round cuts on each ear, he is constantly grinning, his tongue often lolls from his mouth and his eyes rarely seem to focus on anything. Also, he has no eyebrows. He communicates through laughter, his only line of dialogue being the chorus of the song Be Prepared (mostly because Jim Cummings was filling in Jeremy Irons'/Scar's lines at this point). When amused by anything, he cannot control his laughter.
In the special edition of The Lion King DVD, character profiling reveals that Ed is neither stupid or completely insane; he "knows the score". However, for whatever reason, he chooses not to speak (although some of Shenzi and Banzai's reactions to his laughter seem to indicate that they are able to translate his laughter to meaningful language anyways). He often displays lucidity, being the first to notice Simba, Nala and Zazu escaping while his two peers are busy cracking jokes about eating them. When Shenzi comments that the hyenas would be running the show if the lions weren't around, he nods in agreement, listening to the conversation. And when Scar betrays the hyenas at the end, he understands that they have been betrayed just as well as Shenzi and Banzai, and is just as angry as they are. In addition, both Banzai and Shenzi have waited until Ed's reply before deciding on a response or a proper course of action at least twice: The first time when Shenzi and Banzai were rhetorically asking who was present in the Elephant Graveyard, and the second when noting that Scar had earlier called them their enemies before exacting revenge with the other Hyena Clan members. However, when they were attacked by Mufasa and Shenzi and Banzai denied knowing that Simba was his son, Ed confirmed it; during a scuffle with Banzai, he chews on his own leg obliviously; he has numerous 'episodes' during which he stares vacantly, and cannot control his laughter. Ed's behavior is reminiscent of a Manic Depressive (aka Bipolar Disorder). Jim Cummings recorded over four hours of various laughter clips for any situation Ed might be in; excited, amused, angry, etc.
The hyenas first appear in the Elephant Graveyard that Simba and Nala venture into. The hyenas, under Scar's orders, chase the cubs in an attempt to kill them. While in pursuit, Shenzi catches up with Nala, and is about to savage her when she is struck by Simba, which results in three visible blood-like scratches on her cheek. The hyenas push Zazu into a 'birdie boiler', they plan to kill Simbia and Nala and corner Simba and Nala but are thwarted by Mufasa's arrival. They attack him, but are quickly defeated and frightened off.
Later, Scar arrives in the Elephant Graveyard, to tell off the hyenas for failing to kill Simba. However, after Banzai and Shenzi ask sardonically whether Scar should kill Mufasa to claim the throne while feasting on a Zebra's leg that Scar supplied to them (Shenzi: So, what do you expect to do? Banzai: Yeah? Kill Mufasa?), they unwittingly gave him an idea: He then informs them of the newly-formed plan to kill both Mufasa and Simba during the song "Be Prepared". Afterwards, they help Scar carry out his plan to kill Mufasa by triggering the wildebeest stampede. Immediately after Scar tells Simba to run away and never return, he commands the hyenas to kill Simba too, but Simba falls into thorny bushes where the hyenas can't follow him. Shenzi decides that Simba is as good as dead out alone in the desert, that if he survives he probably won't come back (not unreasonable assumptions), and that IF he comes back, they'll kill him then. The entire pack then enters the Pride Lands.
Years into Scar's reign, the hyenas' excessive presence in the Pride Lands has damaged the ecological balance. They come to Scar's cave to inform him that there's no food or water, and that the lionesses refuse to follow his orders. Banzai quietly remarks that things were better under Mufasa. Scar angrily orders Banzai to repeat what he just said, and Banzai quickly corrects himself by saying that he simply said "Que Pasa?". Still touchy about Banzai's remark and angry at being compared unfavorably to his brother, Scar throws them out without listening to their complaints.
When Simba returns to overthrow Scar, Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed grew worried when Scar learned that Simba was alive and backed away (Scar glared at them, indicating that he found out that the hyenas have not done their job, and that Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed had presumably never informed Scar of that development), but then the hyenas demonstrate their continued loyalty to Scar by joining the fight on his side, but most are defeated, and Shenzi and Banzai are ruthlessly beaten up by Pumbaa for calling him a "pig" while Ed watches. When Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed overhear Scar trying to foist all blame for the plot on them to Simba, they furiously turn against their former boss. Alerting the other hyenas to his treachery, they corner Scar after he is defeated by Simba. Scar frantically tries to absolve himself, but the hyenas have had enough of his lies, derogatory treatment, and broken promises, they leap on Scar and tear him to ribbons as flames raise around them.
In the direct-to-video sequel The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, the hyenas are only briefly mentioned by Nuka as he and his grown sister Vitani arrive at the Elephant Graveyard. He says simply "This place is even creepier since the hyenas ran off". Originally, Zira was going to be accompanied by the hyenas but it was changed to being Outsider Lions.
In the direct-to-video midquel The Lion King 1½, the hyenas have a fairly major role in setting the story rolling and serve as the film's main antagonists (seeing as Scar has no lines and makes only very brief appearances).
In their first appearance, they attack a meerkat colony when Timon, who is the sentry on duty of the colony, is daydreaming. They fail to catch any meerkats, but this incident drives Timon to leave the colony to find where he truly belongs. The hyenas make an appearance again during the film's climax at Pride Rock. Some anonymous hyenas are seen chasing Timon and Pumbaa into a cave (after the Hula song in the first film), and are driven away by Pumbaa's flatulence.
Timon and Pumbaa insult the hyenas to get them away from Simba so that he has a better chance against Scar - Ed as usual laughs at the joke, and Banzai hits him, while Shenzi tells them, "For your last meal, you're gonna eat those words." Eventually, Timon and Pumbaa are cornered by the hyenas.
Timon first balances plates, then performs the can-can, which stalls the hyenas briefly, then breakdances with Pumbaa, which Shenzi applauds to before simply agreeing with Banzai to eat them. Finally, he proposes to Shenzi as a desperate move to buy time for his mother and Uncle Max as they dig a tunnel, which she turns down, becoming more and more disgusted at his proposal. Banzai seems to realize Timon is trying to buy time for something, and says, "I say we skip the wedding and get straight to the buffet!" However, this has bought just enough time and the hyenas then fall into the tunnel, which transports them to base of Pride Rock, just in time for them to find Scar and kill him.
The three hyenas made occasional appearances in the TV series The Lion King's Timon and Pumbaa. While Jim Cummings reprised his role as Ed, Tress MacNeille and Rob Paulsen replaced Whoopi Goldberg and Cheech Marin. The hyenas were also more noticeably dim-witted in the series in comparison to the movies. In addition, for unexplained reasons, they somehow managed to learn how to stand on their hind legs.
The hyenas had four "skits" in which they starred, usually trying to get an easy meal. These were called "The Laughing Hyenas".
TV Dinner: The hyenas observe a nature documentary made about an armadillo in the Serengeti. This is pretty impressive for a start, as armadillos are not native to ANY part of Africa, only the Americas. The three of them decide that they too can be stars and get great meals. For the host Martin Partin, Shenzi demonstrates ballet dancing, Banzai performs a singing act, and Ed attempts slapstick comedy, but they are turned down abruptly. When the armadillo gets a movie deal, they are offered jobs, but decide that they'd rather be directors, and have Martin Partin for lunch.
Can't Take A Yolk: Shenzi wakes up, and wakes up Banzai, who wakes up Ed. While Banzai and Ed fight, Shenzi spots a mother ostrich nursing an egg, and persuades Banzai that the egg would make an excellent breakfast. First they attempt to creep up on the egg, but find it's heavily alarmed. Then they try to crush the mother ostrich with a large rock, but get crushed themselves. Then they try to tunnel up under the egg, but end up tunneling to China, and get crushed by a cart. Then they redirect an elephant to crush both mother and egg, but get crushed by the elephant. Finally Shenzi has them disguise themselves as ostriches and persuades the mother to put her head in the sand, while they steal the egg and substitute a rock. However, as they argue over who gets to eat the egg, it hatches into a huge ostrich, and they are knocked into a canyon and squashed by a large rock.
Cooked Goose: Two snooty Cheetahs have found that the hyena trio is disturbing their hunts, so they decide to send them on wild goose chases to get them out of the way. First they try giving them a treasure map where X marks the spot, but the hyenas don't know how you spell 'X'. Then they try catapulting the hyenas via Serengeti Shuttle into a volcano, but the hyenas just come back, suspicious about the lack of seatbelts, airbags, and lack of peanuts. Finally they decide that if they split the hyenas up, telling each one that they are the brains of the bunch and giving them directions to the North Pole. Unfortunately the hyenas meet up there and realize they've been conned. Back in the Serengeti, they find the Cheetahs again, who are so stuffed full from eating that they cannot outrun the hyenas. Just as the hyenas are about to eat them, a wild goose arrives and asks them which way is south, as he's headed for a wild goose convention. The five of them direct him, then chase him.
Big Top Breakfast: The hyenas are walking along, complaining about how hungry they are. Banzai comments that he's so hungry he could eat a circus monkey, and a crate with Simon the circus monkey on it lands on the three of them. They promptly start arguing about who gets to eat him, allowing him to escape. Shenzi suggests that they pretend to be monkeys and hide in a barrel, and Banzai suggests that "Hey, we can build an environment suitable and comfortable for all species in the class known as Chimpanzee." Ed however, discovers that the crate the monkey landed with is full of circus stuff. Shenzi promptly constructs an elaborate circus, and posing as ringmaster, gets Simon to dive into their cooking pot. He breaks out, and hides in a circus cannon, which Banzai fires. The cannon explodes, and the hyenas are left charred and monkey-less. Banzai complains that he is so hungry that he could eat a blue whale, and one promptly lands on the three of them.
The hyenas were featured in several episodes of House of Mouse, and were part of the entourage of Disney villains featured in Mickey's House of Villains. Banzai can be seen in the song It's Our House Now! In the episode "Turkey Day", the hyenas were anxiously waiting to eat turkey but when they learn he's a guest member and not a snack - they briefly try to eat Pumbaa. In "Donald's Pumbaa Prank" they were seen at their table about to eat Zazu. In "House of Crime," Shenzi can be seen the cage along with other villains before they all disappear. They're also seen near the beginning of the pilot episode "The Stolen Cartoons."