Zazu has had several voice actors portray him. Rowan Atkinson (who also played Mr. Bean, Johnny English and Edmund Blackadder) voices the character in The Lion King, while Edward Hibbert voices him in The Lion King II: Simba's Pride and The Lion King 1½. Michael Gough voices Zazu in its television series Timon and Pumbaa. Jeff Bennett provides Zazu's singing voice during the Morning Report sequence on the Platinum Edition of The Lion King DVD. Bennett currently voices Zazu in The Lion Guard (which is a sequel to the first film and midquel to the second).
Zazu has two different backstories.
According to The Lion King: Six New Adventures books, Zazu gained the title of majordomo after his mother Zuzu retired.
However, according to the book Friends In Need (which takes place years before The Lion King), an adolescent Zazu is about to be eaten by Shenzi, Banzai and Ed, but is saved by a then Prince Mufasa. As thanks for being rescued, Zazu hopes that he can be of service to the future king.
Zazu starts to follow Mufasa around, much to the young lion's annoyance as Zazu keeps disrupting his hunts and his time with his betrothed Sarabi. One day, Zazu notices vultures circling and questions Mufasa about it. However the young prince does not wish to deal with it and has a nap. Zazu goes to see what the vultures are interested in and discovers Sarabi trapped in a gorge. He goes to alert Mufasa, who uses a tree trunk Zazu points out to him to rescue his love interest.
Afterwards, Mufasa accepts that Zazu is useful and declares that when he becomes King, Zazu will be his majordomo, which happened when Mufasa became the new King of Pride Rock.
The Lion King
Zazu first appears when he reaches Pride Rock and bows to King Mufasa during Prince Simba's presentation. Later that day, he goes to an area of Pride Rock where Mufasa's younger brother Scar is. He berates Scar for playing with an innocent mouse whilst attempting to eat it. He then tells Scar that Mufasa is on his way to question him on why he was not at the ceremony. After the mouse escapes, an annoyed Scar tries to eat Zazu, but is stopped by Mufasa who confronts Scar over missing Simba's presentation. After Scar leaves, Zazu tells Mufasa that there's one (two in Zazu's case) in every family who manage to ruin special occasions. When Mufasa wonders what to do about Scar, Zazu jokes that Scar would make a "very handsome throw rug".
He is later seen months later giving news to Mufasa in the morning. He explains about the animals until he is pounced by Simba, who was being given a pouncing lesson by Mufasa. (In the 2002 IMAX re-release, Zazu sings his signature song "The Morning Report". During the song, he sings about what animals do, like in the scrapped song "To Be King"). Just then, a gopher appears and tells Zazu about hyenas in the Pride Lands, which the latter tells Mufasa. Zazu is then tasked by Mufasa to take Simba back to Pride Rock.
Later that day, Queen Sarabi assigns Zazu to watch over Simba and his friend Nala on their journey to the watering hole to avoid getting lost. During the journey, Zazu tells the cubs that they are betrothed, meaning one day they will be married, much to their disgust. However, Simba and Nala are actually planning to go to the Elephant Graveyard and are able to escape from Zazu by singing "I Just Can't Wait to be King".
At the Elephant Graveyard, Zazu tries to stop the cubs from checking the big elephant's skull. Just then, Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed arrive and try to eat the trio. They capture Zazu and put him in a geyser, blasting him into the air like a rocket. Though not seen, it is possible that Zazu ended up being blasted back to the Pride Lands before finding Mufasa and telling him that the hyenas were going to harm Simba and Nala. Later, after saving the cubs from the hyenas, Mufasa tells Zazu to take Nala home while he teaches Simba a lesson.
The next day, Zazu is out with Mufasa and notices dust coming out of the gorge, meaning that wildebeest herd are on the move, which Mufasa finds odd. Just then, Scar arrives and tells Mufasa that a stampede is in the gorge and Simba is there. Zazu flies on ahead and into the gorge and finds Simba clinging to a tree. Zazu tells the cub that Mufasa is on the way, before going back to inform Mufasa (who has arrived at the gorge with Scar) of Simba's position. As Mufasa dives into the stampede, Zazu suggests to Scar about going back for help. However, Scar (who along with Shenzi, Banzai and Ed, planned the stampede to kill both Mufasa and Simba in order to become king), knocks him out, before killing Mufasa.
That night, following Mufasa's death and Simba's self-exile, Zazu is seen comforting Sarabi as Scar tells the pride that both Mufasa and Simba perished in the stampede, before announcing himself as the king and allows the hyenas into the Pride Lands much to Zazu's horror.
Years later, Zazu is seen locked up in a ribcage and forced to entertain Scar. He is then berated by Scar for mentioning Mufasa (as Scar had banned anyone from mentioning his brother's name in his presence). When Shenzi, Banzai and Ed arrive, complaining about lack of food, Scar tells them to eat Zazu who replies that he's too rough and gamey.
A few days later, after Simba returns to defeat Scar and reclaim his throne, Zazu begs Simba's meerkat friend Timon to let him out of his cage, but Timon goes into the cage to escape Shenzi, Banzai and Ed. Luckily, Simba's other friend; a warthog named Pumbaa arrives and frees Zazu and Timon and chases away Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed.
After Scar's death, Zazu is happy that peace is restored and bows to Simba and watches him ascend Pride Rock and roar in victory. Zazu is later seen flying in the air during Simba and Nala's daughter Kiara's birth.
The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride
Zazu is given a very minor role in the sequel. He is the advisor of Simba and Nala. He first appears telling Kiara about the Outsiders calling them backstabbing and murderous. He is later seen flying back to Pride Rock after Simba, Nala, Timon, Pumbaa and two other Pridelanders rescue Kiara from the Outlands.
As Kiara is a teenager, Zazu is present at her first hunt and later assures Simba thought Kiara was going to be safe on the grasslands, but is sent to find Kiara when Simba notices fire in the distance and spots her being saved by Kovu. Afterwards, Zazu reminds Simba that due to Kovu saving Kiara, all depts must be payed.
When Kiara sees Simba return from an ambush sent on him by Kovu's mother Zira and the Outsiders, she tells Zazu to get help. That night, after Simba discovers that Kiara has ran away to find Kovu (following his exile), Zazu appears and tells him that the Outsiders are coming for war. Zazu appears again along with the reunited pride at the end of the film watching Kiara and Kovu getting married.
The Lion King 1½
Zazu makes brief appearances in this film, which centres on Timon and Pumbaa's point of view of the first film. Zazu's first appears at Simba's presentation where he tells Mufasa that the animals are kneeling where in fact, they passed out after Pumbaa farted.
His second appearance was when he accompanied Mufasa in going to The Elephant Graveyard to save Simba and Nala from Shenzi, Banzai and Ed.
The Lion Guard
Zazu makes a brief appearance in the TV film The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar, which takes place in the middle of the second film and focuses on Simba and Nala's son Kion.
Zazu leads Simba, Kiara and Tiifu to Kion after Kiara told Simba that Kion put Bunga in The Lion Guard. Zazu looks on as Simba scolds Kion for not putting other lions in The Lion Guard and for treating his role as leader as a game. Following this, Zazu leaves with Simba.
Zazu makes recurring appearances in the film's follow up series The Lion Guard.
In the episode "Can't Wait to Be Queen", Zazu accompanies Simba and Nala in attending the funeral of an elephant named Amanifu (who along with his herd, where the first animals to return to the Pride Lands after Simba defeated Scar). Simba is expected to speak a line of elephantese in his tribute, but has difficulty in learning, but Zazu says he will help as he knows the language. At the funeral, Zazu and Nala become worried when Simba accidentally says "he had poop on him" instead of "he had good on him" in elephantese. Luckily Amanifu's daughter Ma Tembo and the rest of the herd don't take offence. After this, Zazu returns to Pride Rock with Simba and Nala.
Originally, Zazu was not always going to be kept by Scar in a ribcage as in a deleted scene of the film (which would later be used in the musical for The Madness of King Scar scene) he is seen walking and flying freely in the royal den. In the scene, he is questioned by Scar on what Mufasa had that he doesn't, to which Zazu lists many things. When Zazu mentions that Mufasa had a queen, Scar decides that he should have one too to have children with to carry on his legecy. Just then, Nala appears, resulting in Scar dismissing Zazu from the den so he can attempt to seduce Nala into becoming his queen.
In an earlier draft of The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, Zazu was to have a girlfriend named Binti, who would later become his wife.