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Banagi was the secondary antagonist of King of the Jungle, the original script for what ultimately took the shape of the legendary 1994 Disney film The Lion King. He was a vicious hyena who was leader/prince of a pack of his own who desired to overthrow King Mufasa, ultimately joining forces with Scar, a rogue lion, to do so and be allowed to hunt on the Pride Lands. He was ultimately replaced by Shenzi, Banzai and Ed in the finished project.

Biography

Banagi was first created for the first draft of the King of the Jungle script, which dates back to January 19, 1990, written by J.T. Allen. When this draft, entitled "The Lion King" like the finished film, was presented, the film was slated to be released on November 12, 1993. In this version of the story, Banagi was the true mastermind behind the coup d'etat against Mufasa and, arguably, the Heavy of the story if not the true main antagonist of the film.

In this first draft, Banagi was going to live with his clan in the Pride Lands during the reign of Mufasa, secretly desiring to overthrow him. After a failed attempt to devour Simba and Nala as well as being given alongside his cronies the remains of a zebra to eat by the lionesses, Banagi sways the rogue lion Scar to his side in the aftermath of his failed fight for dominance with Mufasa, which he lost due Zazu's intervention.

That night, Banagi and his hyenas would ambush Mufasa with Scar's help. Horrified, Simba flees while Zazu and the lionesses distract Scar and Banagi's clan, leading Baasho, Banagi's second-in-command, to chase him but fail to kill him. Over the next years, Scar and Banagi would rule together in a diarchy, with Banagi harassing the lionesses to hunt more for him. However, Banagi fears about the possibility of losing his position of power upon realizing that Scar had fallen in love with Nala.

However, Nala rejects Scar's advances and escapes after failing to make him realize that Banagi was controlling him. Devising a way to retake the Pride Lands, Simba and his allies would face Scar, Banagi, and his hyenas in a final battle which would conclude with Scar getting crushed by a dead branch. After the battle, Banagi and his hyenas are banished by Simba away from the Pride Lands, never to be seen again.

However, the studio was likely not satisfied with this draft, as a second draft, which dates back to May 23, 1990, was immediately commissioned to still reach the November 12, 1993 release date. This second draft, entitled "King of the Beasts", was written by Allen and Ron Bass. Like in the first one, Banagi still acts as the true mastermind behind the takeover of the Pride Lands by manipulating Scar into accepting their help.

In this second draft, Banagi was to be, much like in the first draft, the prince of his clan and Baasho's superior. They would meet Simba for the first time while intimidating a rogue hyena from joining them, until Banagi resolves to rescue Simba from an angry warthog who chases him. Feeling in debt with Banagi, Mufasa gives him and his clan an antelope the pride hunted as payment, which they greatly enjoy. However, Scar arrives and scares them, leading Mufasa to stand up to Scar, impressing Banagi.

That night, Banagi approaches Scar and proposes him to join forces in overthrowing Mufasa, which Scar accepts. The next day, Banagi lies to Mufasa that Scar has kidnapped Baasho and will release him if Mufasa fights him at the fire bridge tree. Mufasa does so but realized too late that he has been set up, getting killed by Scar. While Simba tries to make them pay for their treason, he eventually runs away alongside Zazu, allowing Scar, Banagi and his forces to take over the Pride Lands while believing Simba and Zazu to be dead.

Over time, the hyenas and Scar lead the lionesses to hunt more for them. However, Banagi and Baasho fear that Scar is falling in love with Nala, so they plot to get rid of her only for Nala to become aware of their intentions when Daabi tells her after overhearing them, leading her to run away and meet a grown up Simba. The next morning, Nala returns and informs Scar that Simba plans to fight him in the fire bridge tree without Banagi and the hyenas. Accepting the challenge, Scar orders Banagi to escort Nala back to the Pride Rock, where Nala and the lionesses have a little fight with the hyenas until Zazu calls them for the duel.

Ultimately, Simba wins the duel and defeats Scar, whom he suffocates until the last breath. Unable to accept Scar's defeat, Banagi and his hyenas lunge at Simba, who grabs Banagi with his teeth and uses him as a shield to knock aside his cronies before ruthlessly throwing him off a cliff, while screaming, to his well-deserved demise, making Banagi pay for his betrayal and lies. Baasho and the remaining hyenas, not wanting to share Banagi's fate, bow at Simba and accept them as their new king.

Neverthless, this second and last draft of the King of the Jungle script was scrapped as well much for the same reasons the first was rejected in the first place: its inclusion of violence, suggestive sexual content and blatant incest (specifically the relationship between Simba and Nala in this last aspect). As a result, the script as whole was dropped and few traces of the original story remained in the finished project, which went to be written by Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts and Linda Woolverton. Unlike many characters, Banagi was among the ones who didn't make it into the final version, but was replaced in his role by the beloved hyena trio we know today, the comical Shenzi, Banzai and Ed.

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Trivia

  • In spite of being the secondary antagonist and acting as Scar's servant, Banagi would have turned out to be more dangerous than Scar, as he was the true mastermind behind the takeover of the Pride Lands and had the strength of his clan to overthrow Scar if he desired so.
  • Although Banagi never got a voice actor as he was scrapped from the film before the finished story was settled, the first draft of King of the Jungle described him as having a voice like that of Sydney Greenstreet.
  • Banagi's position as leader/prince of his clan in the King of the Jungle script drafts is unrealistic; in real life, hyena clans are led by a female, like Shenzi does in the final version of the project.
    • A possibility, however, could be that Banagi was the dominant male of a clan composed only by male hyenas, as neither of the two drafts specify whether there were any females among Banagi's cronies.
  • Banagi is widely believed to have inspired Janja, a hyena who served as an antagonist in the Disney Junior show The Lion Guard. Like Banagi, Janja is leader of his all-male clan in spite of being male (yet Janja's clan isn't as big like Banagi's). However, while Janja proved to be honorable and had redeeming traits, Banagi lacks all these positive qualities.
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