Even though Mufasa claims to be all about equality, the Pride Lands have a pretty rigid class system. It goes like this: all animals are respected and equal … except for the hyenas. They're horrible and banished forever. Why? We never find out.
Forced to live in the elephant graveyard, the hyenas become bitter and vengeful toward the royal regime that cast them out. Scar preys upon their angry vulnerability to turn them into his evil army, and by the time that army invades the Pride Lands, all heck breaks loose. The reasons for this remain unclear, but the antipathy between the lions and the hyenas bears closer investigation.
Questions About Society and Class
How are hyenas portrayed as different from or inferior to the other animals?
Do the hyenas benefit from Scar's new regime, where "lion and hyena are to live in harmony"?
Are there other characters in the film who appear to rank lower, socially speaking, than the lions?
Chew on This
Mufasa's antipathy toward the hyenas can be read as an allegory for white racism and xenophobia.
It is the hyenas' hunger and desperation, and not any innate evil, that motivates them to collaborate with Scar.