As you may have heard, McDonald’s fell disappointingly short last weekend on its promise to bring customers a real-life taste of Szechuan sauce. The nugget condiment was briefly available as a promotion for Disney’s Mulan in 1998 and brought back from the grave in the season three premiere of Cartoon Network’s breakaway animated hit Rick & Morty. Rick & Morty, for the uninitiated, is about what happens when theoretical physics cross into reality. The stakes are controlled by scientist Rick Sanchez, a belching drunk/the smartest creature in the universe. Rick’s unsuspecting grandson, Morty, accompanies him on adventures through time and space, and disturbing hilarity reliably ensues.
It’s no spoiler to let you know that McDonald’s Szechuan sauce is the entire point of the show — Rick’s motivation for everything. McDonald’s sent the show’s co-creator Justin Roiland a 64-ounce jug of the sweet stuff back in August. They also sent three others to fans, one of which was listed on eBay, sold for $15,350 and bid on (but not won) by DJ Deadmau5. A sauce revival was only a matter of time, homemade or official.
While that does denote “a very big deal,” it’s hardly Adult Swim’s first tango with food obsession. It hosts a wealth of top-quality animated series geared towards an older crowd, and Rick & Morty is no exception no matter how many times Morty dies into his spaghetti.
Recent controversy surrounding a faction of the show’s fans are a fairly concrete example of why we can’t have nice things, as is peanut gallery-grade analysis that only “smart people” will appreciate its advanced science-based humor. Nevertheless, Rick & Morty has enjoyed explosive success in three seasons in no small part because of its relationship with food, whether it’s Pass The Butter Robot, the therapy-avoiding odyssey of Pickle Rick, or yes, that “Mulan Szechuan teriyaki dipping sauce.” The episode in question even takes place entirely within a Shoney’s.
Food has in fact played a prominent role in many of Adult Swim’s flagship shows throughout its 16-year run. Aqua Teen Hunger Force is perhaps the most obvious example, with a main cast comprised of anthropomorphic fast food. Based on the popular comic series, The Boondocks included episodes like “Fried Chicken Fever” and “The ‘Itis” (a restaurant named for food comas). Award-winning syndicated FOX show Bob’s Burgers speaks for itself. And Adventure Time brought us the Time Sandwich, Tree Trunks’ apple pies, the Everything Burrito (and subsequent board game), Prismo’s Artisanal Pickles, an entire kingdom made from dessert and of course, the Bacon Pancakes Song. Try this remix on for size:
Just in royalty alone, Adventure Time features the following princesses: Breakfast, Wildberry, Strudel, Hot Dog, Cotton Candy, Cookie, Crab, Frozen Yogurt and Bubblegum. So don’t go around thinking Rick & Morty invented Adult Swim’s relationship with delicious things — it’s been there the whole time, all worth the attention of fellow food-obsessed viewers. In recent years they’ve stepped up their game with hits like the perpetually noshing characters on Steven Universe and mini-series Over The Garden Wall. Go ahead and try to listen to “Potatoes and Molasses” without humming it any time you try to make potatoes for the rest of your life.
Even Adult Swim’s small details, like the teaser reels that play between shows and commercials, address the crossover between food and cartoons. Why? Food is fun to animate! It’s fun to talk about. It’s the perfect medium for spawning collaborations and partnerships, which McDonald’s vastly underestimated when supplying sauce packets for the queued-up masses and paid dearly for (with some customers threatening to boycott).
— McDonald’s (@McDonalds) October 8, 2017
But the story has a happy ending. No, not Rick & Morty. If you think that story has a happy ending, you have too much faith in humanity. McDonald’s will however, bring back Szechuan sauce back this winter, truly embodying the spirit of the holidays while issuing one of Rick’s many catchphrases.