The original title was "Sharkslayer", but it was changed to "Shark Tale" about a year before release because Jeffrey Katzenberg thought the title might scare families away (the title still appears in some early promotional material). The change is clear in the movie, as in the song before the credits, the singers interlock between calling the movie "Sharkslayer" and "Shark Tale".
During the end credits, Crazy Joe the hermit crab taps on Head of Artistic Development Frank Gladstone's name and yells out "What! You see this guy? He hardly worked on the movie at all! Always on the phone yakking yakking yakking...".
Ernie the Jellyfish (Ziggy Marley) sings the song "Three Little Birds" - a song written by Ziggy's father, Bob Marley, with the small difference of Ziggy changing "birds" to "fishes" in keeping with the film's aquatic theme.
When Oscar goes to the time clock, there's a note on the wall saying "If you don't come in Saturday, don't bother..." A reference to a famous memo Jeffrey Katzenberg sent to execs while he was with Disney.
According to Hans Zimmer, he asked producer Jeffrey Katzenberg that he couldn't deal with any more epic films, but wanted to do a fun animated movie instead, and so got the chance to compose for this film.
Anthony Anderson was cast as a sperm whale, but the role's suggestive dialogue got his character cut down. Anderson has only a few non-risqué lines: when the whale meets Angie, and when Oscar cleans the whale's eye.
The shark gangster voiced by Peter Falk was originally called Don Brizzi. Bowing to pressure from the Italic Institute of America, an organization protesting Hollywood's stereotyping of Italians as mobsters and gangsters, Dreamworks agreed to change the name of the character to Don Feinberg just before release.
Classifying the characters in terms of species, Oscar is a bluestreak cleaner wrasse (which explains his whale-cleaning status), Angie is a marine angelfish, Sykes is a porcupinefish, Lola is a lionfish, Don Feiberg is a leopard shark, and Crazy Joe is a hermit crab.
There are nods throughout the movie that sharks's den is the wreck of the Titanic. Yet, the outside and interiors of the shipwreck are based on the SS Normandie, a French ocean liner of the 30's. Particular examples are the scenes at the bar when Lino and Sykes meet for the first time and the dining room where the sitting is set.
The American Family Association, a Christian conservative organization, raised concerns about Shark Tale, suggesting that it was designed to promote the acceptance of gay rights by children. Primarily by having Lenny the Shark who is a vegetarian shark and his struggles as an allegory for the struggles gay men go through with their homosexuality.
During the staged fight scene between Oscar and Lenny, Lenny accidentally catches Oscar in his mouth. Oscar slowly opens Lenny's mouth to demonstrate his strength. After doing so, he spouts off a few famous movie lines, one being ,"You had me at hello." Which is a reference to the film Jerry Maguire, In which that line is spoken by Renèe Zellwegger (voice of Angie). In the film Angie has a very subtle reaction to this line in particular, a small nod to her former role.
After Oscar (Will Smith) "defeats" Lenny (Jack Black) in their staged fight, the crowd starts chanting, "Oscar, boma ye!" Smith was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Muhammad Ali in Ali (2001). The climax of the film depicts the legendary Rumble in the Jungle match against George Foreman, including the crowd's famous chant of "Ali, boma ye".