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Why ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ Is the Latest Movie With Tie-In Toys That Reveal Spoilers



SPOILER ALERT: This story discusses plot elements from “Captain America: Brave New World,” which is scheduled to open in theaters on Feb. 14, 2025. 

As the preceding warning suggests, it is customary for any story that reveals significant plot elements of an upcoming movie to include a spoiler alert. But what about a toy line? 

On April 17, a Brazilian Instagram account dedicated to toy collections from fast food chains posted a video showcasing McDonald’s newest Mappy Meal toy line of mini plush characters from Marvel Studios’ “Captain America: Brave New World.” It didn’t take very long for fans online to notice one of these toys was the Red Hulk, the rage monster alter ego of Thaddeus Ross, played in “Brave New World” by Harrison Ford.

For nearly a year, Marvel fans have wondered whether Red Hulk would show up in “Brave New World.” Attempts by Ford and star Anthony Mackie to deflect questions about that possibility only further fueled speculation online. So for this seemingly major revelation to be divulged by a McDonald’s happy meal toy 10 months before the movie is set to open struck some fans as surprising in the extreme. (Spokespersons for Disney and McDonald’s had no comment.)

In truth, this kind of thing has been happening for decades. Movies as disparate as 2009’s “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” 2001’s “Shrek” and 1990’s “Dick Tracy” have had a central character’s secret identity revealed in advanced by tie-in toys. A Lego set for 2010’s “Toy Story 3” revolved around that film’s harrowing climax in a trash incinerator. A coffee mug disclosed the witchy twist in 2013’s “Oz the Great and Powerful.” And numerous aspects of Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” were made public by a fleet of tie-in toys before the film opened in 2019.

In most cases, this is by design. According to multiple sources familiar with tie-in toy deals, studios “work hand-in-hand” with toy companies to decide what aspects of their movies will be reinterpreted as toys. They know, in other words, what and how the toys are going to “spoil” their films, insofar as children really care about spoilers in the first place. Adult fans — especially ones dedicated to scouring the internet for any scrap of new information about upcoming movies — may be more attuned to toy-based spoilers, but studios have decided not to sweat them. Tie-in toys are, in effect, part of a movie’s marketing campaign, which often deploys strategic disclosures of a film’s plot points to tantalize audiences to want to see the movie.

It’s less ideal, however, when a toy line arrives many months in advance after the movie in question has been delayed. Along with “Brave New World” — which Disney moved from May 3, 2024 to Valentine’s Day 2025 — tie-in toys for “The Marvels,” “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” and “DC League of Super-Pets” all arrived timed to their respective film’s original release dates, several months ahead of when the films actually opened. In the case of “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” the toys debuted in July 2020, two years before the pandemic-delayed film finally opened in theaters.

Toy deals are often struck 12 to 18 months in advance to give the toymakers enough time for design, construction and distribution. According to a source who did not want to be named due to ongoing business relationships, toy companies would much prefer to keep their tie-in releases aligned with the movies, but anything from other preexisting tie-in deals to supply chain issues to a lack of a replacement toy line can force a toy company to stick to the original release window, even if the movie does not. 

It’s a reality of the modern film business that not even Captain America could fix.

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