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The McDonald's Commercial That Inspired The '90s Classic Little Giants

The 1990s offered an embarrassment of cinematic riches. Rick Moranis was king, and kid-friendly sports comedies flowed like wine. That hearty boom time produced such classics as "The Mighty Ducks," "Air Bud," "The Sandlot," and so on and so forth, many of which capitalized on the "Bad News Bears"-style underdog story. One of the most underrated family movies to emerge from that era was the football-centric "Little Giants."

"Little Giants" follows the world of pee wee football in small-town Ohio. When the competitive football coach Kevin O'Shea (Ed O'Neill) refuses to draft a motley crew of outcasts, including his own niece, to the Pee Wee Cowboys, his nebbishy brother Danny (Rick Moranis) forms the Little Giants for a David vs. Goliath winner-takes-all football game. While the premise of "Little Giants" is well-worn territory, the cult classic has an unlikely origin story. Here's the story behind the McDonald's ad that served as inspiration for "Little Giants."

A pee wee football commercial piqued the interest of Steven Spielberg

Securing ad time during the Super Bowl is an achievement in and of itself. Attracting the attention of Steven Spielberg is a whole other story. In 1992, as Washington and Buffalo scrapped in front of 79 million fans, ad men Jim Ferguson and Bob Shallcross watched their McDonald's ad come to life during the commercial break. The poignant 90-second ad captured a generation of young footballers and their eager dads and was a nostalgic, pint-sized counterpoint to the infinitely more organized Super Bowl game.

It turned out that one of those millions of viewers was Steven Spielberg, who saw potential in the ad beyond selling burgers. "I want that commercial made into a movie," the director apparently told Ferguson over the phone after his assistant tracked down the creators. "I want my 'Home Alone'" (via Baltimore Sun).

Spielberg stuck to his word, and the director worked with Ferguson and Shallcross to develop the 90-second spot into a fully realized screenplay. In 1994, "Little Giants" was released under Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment banner. The ad men quit their jobs at Leo Burnett Co. Inc. and became full-time screenwriters. As Ferguson put it to the Chicago Tribune, "Ninety seconds and Steven Spielberg changed our lives" (via The Huffington Post).