According to Hans Zimmer, he told producer Jeffrey Katzenberg that he could not deal with any more epic films, but wanted to do a fun animated movie instead, and so he got the chance to compose for this film.
The original title for the movie 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 is a note on the wall saying, "If you don't come in Saturday, don't bother..." This is a reference to a famous memo Jeffrey Katzenberg sent to execs while he was with Disney.
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' den is the wreck of the Titanic. However, the outside and interiors of the shipwreck are based on the S.S. Normandie, a French ocean liner of the 1930s. 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 (2004), 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.
Anthony Anderson was cast as a sperm whale, but the role's suggestive dialogue got his character cut down. Anderson had only a few non-risqué lines--when the whale meets Angie and when Oscar cleans the whale's eye.
The Castilian Spanish dubbing of Shark Tale (2004) is considered by the Spanish audience to be one of the worst dubbing ever made in Spain. In that time, the Spanish television show Aquí no hay quien viva (2003), was a big hit. So, the distributors decided to used some of the actors from that show (some of them with no dubbing experience) to do the voices of some characters. Fernando Tejero dubbed Oscar, María Adánez dubbed Angie, and Santiago Ramos dubbed Sykes. Also, actors (not from the original show) José Sancho and Natalia Verbeke, were in the cast as Don Lino and Lola, and also television journalist and host Mercedes Milá as Katie Current. The audience criticized the most Tejero's performance as Oscar. This happened again a couple of years later with Over the Hedge (2006).
Don Lino (voiced by Robert De Niro) tells Sykes (voiced by Martin Scorsese) that they have worked together for a long time. In reality, Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro have actually worked together multiple times since the 1970s, most notably in Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), Goodfellas (1990), and Casino (1995).
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.
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." This line is a reference to the film Jerry Maguire (1996), and it was spoken by Renèe Zellwegger, who was the voice of Angie in this movie. 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."
This film received negative reception for the reasons that the characters in the movie looked so much like their voice actors, there were jokes that made no sense and there was a mean spirited environment, Oscar was being a complete jerk towards most characters in the film and had acted like a bad person in general, there were a lot of ignorant attempts at comedy, and Dreamworks made this film dark, due to some characters dying on-screen, and using that as dark comedy that frightens younger audiences.