Zazu is a fictional Red-billed Hornbill who first appeared in the Walt Disney Pictures animated film The Lion King. As majordomo to King Mufasa, his proper, dignified, nervous, and easily-rattled personality is the polar opposite in temperament of the protagonists, lion cubs Simba and Nala.
In the original film, he was voiced by Rowan Atkinson. His singing voice in the Morning Report sequence in the 2002 Special Edition was provided by Jeff Bennett. In The Lion King II: Simba's Pride and The Lion King 1½, Zazu's voice was provided by Edward Hibbert, while Michael Gough provides Zazu's voice in the TV Series The Adventures of Timon and Pumbaa, as well as the Magic Kingdom attraction The Enchanted Tiki Room: Under New Management.
He is first seen in the film during the opening sequence in which Simba is presented. He later confronts Scar and is almost eaten by him.
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 the cubs by Sarabi when Simba claims he wants to go to the waterhole with Nala. In fact, Simba had 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 and the hornbill is put into the hyenas' "birdie boiler" geyser which rockets him up to the sky. Zazu manages to find Mufasa and lead him to the cubs, just in time to save them from the hyenas.
During the wildebeest stampede engineered by Scar to kill Mufasa and Simba, it is Zazu who leads Mufasa to Simba. He later wants to rally the lionesses, but is struck by Scar into a wall and rendered unconscious.
After Simba runs away, Zazu is hardly seen again. He briefly appears in a scene where Scar has assumed the kingship of the Pride Lands. In this scene, Zazu is imprisoned and is being forced to entertain Scar by singing songs like "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts" (but not before briefly singing the lyrics of It's a Small World). Later on, Simba returns to reclaim his throne. Simba, the lionesses, Timon, Pumbaa, and Rafiki battle the hyenas. 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 accidentally insults him. Zazu is freed along with Timon, and he joins the battle. Later, Zazu is seen at Simba's ascension to the throne and during the presentation of Simba and Nala's newborn cub.
Zazu makes a few brief appearances in The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, but he is no longer a comic character and his role in the film is less significant. He is the first character to mention the "Outsiders", the pride of lions still loyal to Scar exiled to the Outlands by Simba. Instead of his voice being provided by Rowan Atkinson it is provided by Edward Hibbert (which angered disney fans). In early production of the movie, Zazu had a love interest named "Binti" but she did not make it to the final film.
In The Lion King, 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 Morning Report before being pounced on by Simba. The musical version of the song is longer than its film counterpart.
In certain English productions of the show, 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!" and also, at the end of the number, the puppet is taken from his head and he cries out "Give me back my bird!" In the Memphis tour, he exclaims "These look like shower curtains from Graceland!", while in the London production he remarks "They look like shower curtains from IKEA!". In the Hawaii production, he exclaims "These look like shower curtains from Hilo Hattie!" The Toronto production had him make references to Honest Ed's, the original business of the theatre's owner, Ed Mirvish.
Young Zazu is about to be cooked and eaten by the young three hyenas (which explains his cry of "Oh no! Not the Birdie Boiler!" in the first movie) Shenzi, Banzai and Ed, when a young Mufasa comes along, frightens off the hyenas and saves him. Zazu is thankful and hopes that he can be of service to the Lion King someday. Mufasa is doubtful of this. How could a small bird be of any use to a lion?
Zazu follows Mufasa around and watches over him. Mufasa tires of this quickly as Zazu disturbs his hunts and his private time with Sarabi.
One day Zazu notices some vultures hovering. He asks Mufasa if Mufasa 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 royal advisor.
Zazu's mother, Zuzu, was a steward to Kopa's great-grandfather Ahadi. When Zazu was young, Zuzu trained him to take her place when Mufasa's rule began.
In the book, Zazu reports everything he sees and tends to jump to conclusions. He ends up reporting false stories to Mufasa as three young animals make up stories to trick Zazu. Zazu redeems himself though as he spies an army ant attack and alerts Mufasa to the problem.