This movie was inspired by an early 1990s McDonald's ad about Pee-Wee Football that ran during the Super Bowl. The day after it aired, Steven Spielberg liked it so much that he called up the ad's creator, James Ferguson, and hired him to write the script.
The game-winning play at the end of the movie inspired Michigan State Spartans coach Mark Dantonio to make a similar one, faking a field goal for a touchdown in their September 18, 2010, match against Notre Dame, bringing them a 31-34 victory rather than a 31-31 tie that would have brought the game into a second overtime. After the game, Dantonio said, "By the way, the name of that play is 'Little Giants'." It happened again on December 18, 2011, when the Carolina Panthers called the play and fullback 'Richie Brockel' scored on a seven-yard run. The Panthers won 28-13. Ironically, the play itself would later be banned in Pee-Wee and Pop Warner football, though not at higher levels.
Duwayne Dunham was removed as director after shooting more than two-thirds of the film. He fell behind during the football game sequences. Brian Levant was brought in for the last few weeks to finish the football sequences, using Rexford L. Metz as his cinematographer. Dunham was retained to supervise the editing at the same time, however, which he saw through to completion.