'Rick and Morty' Szechuan Sauce Backlash, Explained

McDonald's delivered a lot of disappointment and not a lot of Szechuan sauce.

McDonald's / Adult Swim

Fans of Rick and Morty savagely dragged McDonald’s over social media and in real life over the weekend after the fast food chain failed to deliver the Szechuan sauce it promised at an October 7 promotional event. McDonald’s got riggity riggity wrecked, son.

The Szechuan Sauce Saga began back in April with the surprise Rick and Morty Season 3 premiere. The episode ended on a monologue from Rick Sanchez about his quest to taste the sauce again. The joke resonated with fans, even after Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland confirmed that the sauce would have no impact on the show whatsoever. It was, as they say, just a joke.

But fans, and McDonald’s, took it very seriously. The fans just took it absurdly seriously, which led to cartoon-inspired chaos.

Previous Szechuan sauce marketing shenanigans involved McDonald’s sending a jug of the recreated 1998 sauce to Rick and Morty co-creators Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon. This move helped transform a random joke from the show into a boost for the McDonald’s brand that literally fed Roiland’s enthusiasm for commercialism and fast food.

Much more recently, McDonald’s promised to bring back the Szechuan sauce for public consumption on October 7 to promote the new McDonald’s Buttermilk Crispy Tenders, and to capitalize on the ravenous Rick and Morty fan base to boost sales.

Leading up to the release on October 7 at 2 p.m. local time, fans already expressed worry: Very few restaurants were slated to carry the sauce, and each promised only “limited quantities.” The event included some cool art with free posters and stickers, but scarcity and accessibility were concerns long before fans started lining up.

McDonald’s planned the event without consulting anyone related to Rick and Morty, despite including art and language deeply reminiscent of the show. It was enough to spur Dan Harmon to say they were “robbed” by McDonald’s.

Pretty cool poster McDonald's, even if it's still kind of a vague 'Rick and Morty' rip-off.


When McDonald’s tried to do their own thing without consulting anyone from Rick and Morty or Adult Swim, things ended in disaster.

McDonald’s was totally unprepared for the crowds that lined up at various establishments leading up to the 2 p.m. release of the sauce. October 7 also coincided with the peak of New York Comic Con, which meant that virtually every McDonald’s in Manhattan, especially the only one even remotely close to the Javits Center offering the sauce, was beset by legions of rabid Con-goers looking for the sauce.

There were long lines, almost no sauce, and a lot of angry Rick and Morty fans.

Fans lined up in Manhattan.

Dominick Tao

McDonald’s workers didn’t want to endure huge crowds of grumpy customers:

Rick and Morty co-creator Dan Harmon has been quoted as hating, fairly, a certain portion of his fan-base that harasses women online. It’s hard to know where the overlap is, but there’s a good chance he might also hate the Rick and Morty fans that engage asinine behavior harassing McDonald’s workers, like this guy:

Roiland himself seemed frustrated by McDonald’s and how they handled the sauce’s distribution, but he called on fans to be nice to the employees. After all, they’re not the ones to blame here. The whole event was planned and organized by McDonald’s higher-ups.

Within hours of the sauce’s release, McDonald’s had to issue a statement via Twitter, apologizing to fans that missed out on the sauce:

After the chaotic and totally negative response from fans online, McDonald’s revamped its official Buttermilk Crispy Tenders website to include a lengthy apology and a promise to bring the sauce back this winter in much larger quantities.

To some extent, McDonald’s botched the release of the sauce. But, to say the company brought this on themselves is to excuse the actions of legions of irate fans who were angry they couldn’t get some of the nugget-dipping sauce that was mentioned on the cartoon.

Sure, McDonald’s could’ve better prepared for what was clearly massive demand. But, those fans could have also, uh, chilled the fuck out.

If you liked this article, check out this video about an Evil Morty fan theory.

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