It was the slap heard ‘round the world: during last night’s Oscars ceremony, actor Will Smith marched up on stage and gave comedian Chris Rock the ol’ palm sandwich after he delivered a distasteful joke about Smith’s wife. What most people don’t know, however, is that the joke was just the last straw of a years-long rivalry between two animated masterpieces: Shark Tale and Madagascar.
Released in 2004, Shark Tale features what is widely regarded as the best performance of Smith’s career—playing an animated fish crippled by debt. The following year, Madagascar (starring Chris Rock as Marty the Zebra) took the world by storm, and Smith’s most successful film was quickly forgotten. Thus, seeds of discontent were sown amongst Shark Tale’s cast and were left to fester for over a decade.
To further complicate the situation, Jada Pinkett Smith—Smith’s wife and the target of Chris Rock’s joke—was among the Madagascar cast as the voice of Gloria the Hippo. This created a rift in their marriage, according to a source close to the couple, which ultimately led to acts of infidelity by Jada.
“I just can’t be satisfied by a man whose performance as an animated animal isn’t embedded in the cultural zeitgeist of the early 2000’s,” Jada said in a 2020 interview. “Now, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock…those guys can get it any day.”
It is understandable, then, why Chris Rock’s joke about Jada finally made her husband snap. Thus, as though wielding a fin, Smith hit Rock with his open palm and finally got the revenge he craved. Rock, meanwhile, kept his hooves to himself—speechless.