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."
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.
When Oscar (Will Smith) 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 executives while he was with Disney.
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, with the small difference of Ziggy changing "birds" to "fishes" in keeping with the film's aquatic theme.
There are nods throughout the movie that sharks' den is the wreck of the R.M.S. 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 Don Lino (Robert De Niro) and Sykes (Martin Scorsese) 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 this movie, suggesting that it was designed to promote the acceptance of gay rights by children. Primarily, by having Lenny, 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.
Classifying the characters in terms of species, Oscar (Will Smith) is a bluestreak cleaner wrasse ((which explains his whale-cleaning status) despite looking more like a dolphinfish), Angie (Renée Zellweger) is a marine angelfish, Sykes (Martin Scorsese) is a porcupinefish, Lola (Angelina Jolie) is a lionfish, Don Feinberg (Peter Falk) is a leopard shark, Don Lino (Robert De Niro), Frankie (Michael Imperioli) and Lenny (Jack Black) are great white sharks, Giuseppe (Lenny Ventino) is a scalloped hammerhead shark and Crazy Joe (David P. Smith) is a hermit crab.
Don Feinberg (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.
In the film's early stages of production, James Gandolfini was considered for the voice of Don Lino, Christopher Walken was considered for the voice of Luca the Octopus, and Sacha Baron Cohen was considered for Bernie the Jellyfish. Cohen voiced King Julian in the Madagascar film franchise, also from DreamWorks Animation.
The Castilian Spanish dubbing of this movie is considered by the Spanish audience to be one of the worst dubbing ever made in Spain. At 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 and actresses from that show (some of them with no dubbing experience) to do the voices of some of the characters. Fernando Tejero dubbed Oscar, María Adánez dubbed Angie, and Santiago Ramos dubbed Sykes. Also, actor and actress (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 Tejero's performance as Oscar the most. This happened again a couple of years later with Over the Hedge (2006).
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."
Only DreamWorks Animation film where the cast names of major characters in the film are listed at the start and the end outside of the credit crawl (though the end features six other cast members than at the start). Other DreamWorks Animation films either have it being shown the latter way or the former way.
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 Jerry Maguire (1996), and it was spoken by Renèe Zellweger, 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.
Originally, Luca the octopus was going to be the character who died in the film but DreamWorks abandoned the idea as it was considered too dark and risky for a family film so it was replaced with Frankie's death because Frankie's death was more interesting.
DreamWorks' first film to have Hans Zimmer compose the score solely since he previously teamed up with John Powell in The Prince of Egypt (1998), The Road to El Dorado (2000), and Spirit Stallion of the Cimarron (2002).
Frankie and Lenniy's mother is mentioned, but she's never seen in this movie, but the only time Frankie and Lenny's grandmother's seen is when she's sobbing silently on Frankie and Lenny's grandfather's left shoulder during Frankie's funeral ceremony, but Frankie and Lenny's grandmother was never seen again.
With Lola forming an alliance with the sharks during the climax to get revenge for being dumped, as part of her tougher side, this makes her the first character in a DreamWorks Animation film to be a hidden secondary antagonist.