This entry is trivia, which is cool and all, but not a trope. On a work, it goes on the Trivia tab.

Spoiled by the Merchandise

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/phantasmtoy.jpg
So much for the Phantasm's Secret Identity.

When toys or other derivatives of a merchandise-driven franchise spoil upcoming episodes or storylines.

In a Merchandise-Driven franchise, sometimes the marketing department releases toys, soundtracks, or other merchandise related to a key plot element long before the relevant episodes have first been aired or the relevant stories have been published. It is worth noting that, just as Tropes Are Tools, spoilers in merchandise aren't necessarily bad; The Merch is often considered a form of advertising for the show, so merchandise that hints at future episodes helps get more eyes watching the show, which in turn lets the broadcaster charge more for ads that get aired during the show.

Compare Late-Arrival Spoiler, which is when the merchandise spoils previous events in the main work, and Early-Bird Cameo, which is for characters that first appear outside of the main work. A Canon Foreigner that becomes a Canon Immigrant is typically an Early-Bird Cameo and not this, but may become this if Word of God suggests the marketing division introduced the character through the merchandise too early...though beware of Trolling Creators in this case.

For the similar trope where advertising gives away key plot elements, see Trailers Always Spoil.

It should go without saying that Spoilers follow. You Have Been Warned.

Examples

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     Anime And Manga  

  • Irwin Toys' Dragon Ball Z line featured characters and transformations years before they were introduced in the English dub. Examples include Super Saiyan 3 Goku, Super Saiyan Vegeta, Gohan, and Trunks, Majin Buu, and Brolly.
    • The same company also made some Sailor Moon toys for the Canadian market that introduced wands and characters long before the episodes featuring them were dubbed. A few Sailor Moon S characters were released as dolls in 1997, including Sailor Mini Moon and Professor Tomoe, and the Spiral Heart Moon Rod and Pink Moon Stick were released that same year.
  • The merchandise line for Kamisama Minarai: Himitsu no Cocotama spoiled all six Cocotamas that Kokoro owns a week before the show's premiere. Some of the other Kokotamas were also spoiled by the toyline this way.
  • The soundtrack for Pokémon: Volcanion and the Mechanical Marvel (released before the movie) has two tracks close to each other: "Volcanion Dies?" and "From Within The Mist" (which Volcanion uses to cloak itself), spoiling the fact that the character undergoes a Disney Death at the film's climax.
    • Captures and evolutions are regularly spoiled because of merchandise. If a character is going to capture a Pokemon, a toy will usually be released around that time, with that trainer's name. (ie "Ash's Palpitoad," or "Serena's Pancham.") Evolutions are usually spoiled via group shots on merch, where the evolved Pokemon will be depicted amongst all of the main characters' Pokemon, with their old form nowhere in sight.
  • Pretty Cure often releases toys and merchandise featuring the characters of new installments, as well as the members of the teams that join later on, weeks before they actually appear on TV. Also, some of the transformation devices and weapons can produce sound effects spoiling new characters and forms by pushing down on the buttons activated by the collectible item with a toothpick, pencil or headphone jack. However, some toys are secretive about this, such as the Smile Pact, which says "Pretty Cure, power up! Let's go!" for all upgrade Cure Decors that aren't the Rainbow Healing ones, since they require a separate toy to produce the noises for said power upsnote .
  • The toyline for PriPara does this from time to time. Three noteable examples happened during season 3:
    • The Cyalume Jewel Microphone, a toy microphone that reads jewels and is the the item needed to Cyalume Change for season 3, is infamous for not reading jewels properly, which results in it sometimes spoiling upcoming jewels that haven't been released. Some of the jewels mention new "mysterious idol" characters, some spoiled the Jewel Change ability of the mic weeks before said episode aired and one mentioned the name of Falulu, Hibiki and Fuwari's team. Some ideas that didn't make it into the show were also on the mic, such as the Jewel Wedding Coord.
    • Gaaruru faking her own death and not having to be awakened was spoiled by merchandise sold at Prism Stone Shop, as well as a Jewel and Coorde set, a few weeks before the episode's premiere.
    • The Idol Watch toy spoiled Shuuka Hanazono and Falala's younger sister Galala in the PriPara Change mode.
  • Averted with the Graze Ein model kit from Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, which depicts its pilot Ein still as a normal human instead of the Cyborg state he's in near the end of the first season.
    • Played straight, however, with the model kit of the Shiden from the second season, which revealed that Hush would end up piloting one (and thus indirectly confirming that the Gundam Flauros would be piloted by Norba Shino).
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica has the Figma Homura, which comes with a smiling face, pigtails and glasses, whick look odd for a cold, stoic character. This spoils the existence of her once soft side before episode 10 was aired.

     Comic Books 
  • Late in the run of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, the Joe team's Ninja Force encountered a group of Red Ninjas with a mysterious leader. A few issues later, the mysterious leader turned out to be Firefly. This would have been an effective surprise (Firefly was supposed to be dead at the time) if Hasbro hadn't just introduced a new action figure of the character.

     Films — Animated  

  • Shrek:
    • The Burger King toyline for the first movie had a Fiona toy that shifted from her human look to her ogre look.
    • Plush toys of Shrek and Fiona's triplets were in stores and on shelves at various different retailers long before the release of Shrek the Third, in which Fiona breaks the news to Shrek that she's pregnant.
  • The "What You Lookin' At?" figurine set for The Simpsons Movie depicts the scene where Bart Simpson and Ned Flanders discover the mutant squirrel. The officially solicited photos of the set at least had the decency to censor the spoiler itself.
  • Dolls and plush toys for the film Brave blatantly revealed the identity of some of the bears seen in the trailer as Merida's mother and brothers.
  • Some of The LEGO Movie merchandise revealed details about the movie. Bad Cop's "Scribble Face" minifigure revealed his fate in the movie, and while not an exact interpretation of the scenes, the "Lord Business' Evil Lair" playset revealed many details, including Bad Cop's parents frozen by glue and Princess Unikitty in her "business" disguise.
  • Kenner's figure of the titular villain from Batman: Mask of the Phantasm revealed that "he" was actually Andrea Beaumont, Bruce Wayne's Love Interest.
  • For the most part, Pixar was able to keep Toy Story 3 spoilers under wraps, avoiding Trailers Always Spoil. Unfortunately, the LEGO toyline outright revealed the incinerator scene with an entire set based upon it, even including one of the Little Green Men operating a crane to save the other toys. While not explicitly spoiled, Lotso's true nature was heavily hinted in his LEGO minifigure, which always bore a mean-looking smirk.
  • In Wreck-It Ralph, it was a huge twist reveal that King Candy is in fact Turbo, and is the villain of the piece, having broken into Sugar Rush, usurped the throne, and re-written all the citizens' memories to make them oblivious. But then Disney released their "Villains" O-ring line with slip-covers depicting the villain of each movie, and lo and behold, they went and put King Candy on the cover. So the big twist reveal of the whole damn movie is now ON THE COVER.
    • The official coloring book went through the entire plot note . A coloring book that was released two weeks before the movie debuted.
  • The toy of Midnight Sparkle, Human Twilight Sparkle's One-Winged Angel transformation from the climax of My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games, was revealed at the New York Toy Fair in February 2015, 7 months before the film's release. And even before that, a German doll site leaked the concept art.
  • Following in its predecessor's footsteps, My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Legend of Everfree had a few plot points spoiled in the 2016 Toy Fair: at least three of the protagonists will get crystal wings at the end, there's going to be a "Crystal Gala" at the Crystal Cave, and Rarity gets to do a fashion show at the camp. A downplayed case was with their new powers for the movie: One of the first synopsis for the film (part of the dolls' product descriptions) mentioned the girls' "newfound magical abilities", but otherwise left it vague. And in what is probably one of the more extreme examples of this, the novelization of the movie was released... in September, just a few days shy from being literally a whole month before the film's Netflix premiere. And, the icing on the cake: the novelization actually got released even earlier (by a few days, but still) by mistake in some stores; it goes without saying that the entire plot and its details got leaked to the Internet in short order. Whoops.
  • The King Pig's Castle set from LEGO's The Angry Birds Movie toyline spoils the reveal that Leonard the pig is actually the King Pig himself.
  • There are two sets of Barbie-like dolls made based on Disney films, one set by Mattel and the other by Disney themselves. Rule of thumb is that, when there is any form of merchandise made based on Disney films the villain dolls won't be made by Mattel but would exclusively be made by Disney. This actually spoils the plot twist in Frozen since Hans doesn't have a Mattel doll.
  • There were two toys made of the truck from the climax of Finding Dory that Hank drives. One is a playset from the Swigglefish line-up that comes with a ramp that the characters can slide down, spoiling the fact that the fish on board escape the truck when it falls into the water, while the other is an RC toy that spoils the truck containing fish inside that were going to Cleveland, including Marlin, Nemo and a group of blue tangs.
  • Most merchandise for Trolls spoiled the twist that Branch's skin and hair were originally blue before he became Deliberately Monochrome.
  • The Moana's Ocean Voyage Lego set spoils her unconventional method of saving the world from the fire demon Te Ka, via a play feature in which after Moana returns the heart of the life-granting goddess Te Fiti to a compartment underneath Te Ka's mountain, the mountain rotates as Te Ka changes back to Te Fiti.
  • While the trailers and commercials for Smurfs: The Lost Village try to hide that the titular village is entirely inhabitated by female Smurfs, the promotional artworks used in multiple pieces of merchandise often feature one of the aforemented female Smurfs (the bow-wielding one)
  • One of the sets for The LEGO Ninjago Movie reveals the alter ego of Lloyd's mother, Misako, the Lady Iron Dragon.

     Films — Live-Action  

  • The action figures for G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra include The Doctor. Not bad, except that they give his full name: Rex "The Doctor" Lewis.
  • The action figures for G.I. Joe: Retaliation include Storm Shadow even though Storm Shadow was supposedly killed in his battle with Snake-Eyes in The Rise of Cobra.
  • The soundtrack to Star Wars Episode I The Phantom Menace was released before the movie itself came out. Anybody who picked it up got treated to tracks called "Qui-Gon's Noble End" and "The High Council Meeting and Qui-Gon's Funeral." Oops.
  • The action figure line for Attack of the Clones spoiled that Count Dooku was actually a Sith Lord and Palpatine's new apprentice, even though the movie only reveals this at the very end.
  • Averted with Kenner's release of the first wave of their Return of the Jedi action figures, released before the premiere of the film. Since the look of the Ewoks was a closely guarded secret, the original "65-back" cards had the image of Logray and Chief Chirpa blacked out.
  • The Force Awakens tried to avoid a repeat of the Count Dooku situation by deliberately holding off on releasing any merchandise indicating that Rey is a Jedi and the film's true protagonist until after the film was already in theaters. However, a trailer for Disney Infinity 3.0 contained a brief scene showing Rey fighting Kylo Ren, though most viewers missed this.
  • LEGO Star Wars was released a few weeks before Revenge of the Sith, and contains a playable version of the entire movie (albeit modified by Rule of Funny, Compressed Adaptation, and Speaking Simlish). The same thing happened with LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
  • Similar to the Batman: Mask of the Phantasm example, Playmates Toys' action figure of Dick Tracy Anti-Villain The Blank revealed that "his" Secret Identity was Breathless Mahoney, the nightclub singer played by Madonna.
  • Marvel went to great lengths to avoid showing off The Vision's look for Avengers: Age of Ultron, to the extent that he was kept out of the trailers and his appearance was obscured on all the posters. Despite this, multiple action figures and promotional items have been were released that showed exactly what he looked like in the film.
    • The toy line would also spoiled that Rhodey suited up as War Machine at some point.
    • The bio for the Ultron Fathead decal revealed that the character is granted sentience by Loki's scepter, which may or may not be an Infinity Stone months ahead of the movie's release.
    • An online retailer temporarily pulled a listing for a two-pack featuring Hawkeye and The Falcon, presumably to avoid spoiling that Falcon joins the Avengers at the end of the movie.
    • Quicksilver was vastly underrepresented across all the product lines for the movie, which some took as an indication that he'd be the Avenger to die in the movie. They were correct.
    • Funko was going to produce a Gray Hulk Pop! figure as a Hot Topic exclusive, based on a planned scene in the movie where Bruce Banner would transform into the Gray Hulk after being bewitched by Scarlet Witch. Hot Topic store managers were told to destroy all the copies of Star Wars #1 that contained ads for the toy, presumably to hide the spoiler. Ironically, it ended up being for nothing, since the Gray Hulk was cut from the movie and the toy was repainted.
  • The toy lines for Captain America: Civil War, spoiled that Scott Lang becomes Giant-Man months before the movie was even in theaters, with Hasbro, Lego and Funko all doing figures of the character. Funko soon asked sites to remove any images of their toy, but the damage had already been done.
  • The Shocker's presence in Spider-Man: Homecoming was accidentally revealed at a Comic-Con panel for Diamond Select's toyline.
  • Ryan Reynolds jokingly tweeted about a Lego set that supposedly spoiled key plot points of Deadpool.
  • Ghostbusters (2016) had Rowan's demonic possession of Kevin spoiled by the latter character's LEGO minifigure, whose head turns around to reveal a face with glowing red eyes and an angry grimace. Some other toys depict Rowan after becoming the Icon Ghost (though some people just assumed that it was the 2016 version of Mr. Stay-Puft).
  • Wonder Woman went a surprisingly long time without revealing many plot details or who the villains were, until some action figures from Mattel and a Lego set confirmed Ares was the Big Bad.

     Live-Action TV  

  • It's not that hard to figure out Irene Adlers Password in the Sherlock episode "A Scandal in Belgravia", when it's a popular print for various merchandise.
  • In Super Sentai, Power Rangers and Kamen Rider, the toys for the Transformation Trinket often include sounds for later powerups that haven't been revealed yet. It's usually pretty easy to manipulate them into playing those sounds, thus giving some indication of what sort of upgrades are coming along for the heroes. However, the toys will usually include several sounds that never actually get used, and this is avoided completely when the collectible item that slots into the Transformation Trinket has its own speaker, allowing them to introduce new powers not programmed into the main toy.
    • For Sentai, Kamen Rider, and other Toku shows, the fandom also generally keeps a close watch on the quarterly retail toy catalogs. Although not meant for the public, they always get leaked and show off exactly what upgrades (and even new characters) are coming down the pipe. (Power Rangers doesn't get hit with this so much, if only because it's a Cut-and-Paste Translation and therefore already spoiled in this manner simply by paying attention to Sentai.)
  • Doctor Who is occasionally notorious for this.
    • In 1973, a weekly comic magazine associated with the series blew the secret that the Doctor's home planet is named Gallifrey, months before it was scheduled to be revealed on screen.
    • Series 9 in 2015 had some doozies, including: an issue of the official Doctor Who Magazine running a cover story that revealed the apparent survival of Clara Oswald, before her death scene was broadcast, and information about a spin-off novel being released prior to a certain character's reveal (Ashildr) on the series, blowing the mystery of her identify after months of keeping it quiet.
    • In the 1980s, the makers of Doctor Who attempted to avoid spoilage in the Radio Times TV listings by feeding the then-BBC-sponsored publication false actor names for its listings, most notably crediting actor Anthony Ainley under pseudonyms so that the return of the villain The Master could be kept a surprise. The producers went so far as to arrange for an actor who played a recently killed-off character to make a cameo in the next episode so they could get him listed in the credits and maintain the surprise of his death.

     Video Games  

     Western Animation  

  • The Ra's Al Ghul figure for Batman: The Animated Series included a demon mask, thus spoiling to non-reader viewers that Ra's was the demon-masked villain from "Demon's Quest".
  • The second Inspector Gadget toyline had a toy Dr. Claw with his face shown, the package hid his face and you could only see by opening it. Since his face isn't revealed at any point in the show (and the toy is infamously goofy-looking), its canonicity is questionable, that design went into the SNES videogame.
  • In Mixels, King Nixel's debut was spoiled by the 2015 Toy Fairs, which were in January and February, while his cliffhanger cameo in the show was in March 2015.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.
    • The Target-exclusive toy sets spoiled some things about the Crystal Empire arc before any clips from the episodes were released.
    • The Flim-Flam brothers' trading card mentioning their Miracle Curative Tonic.
    • The Rainbow Power toy line. Perhaps the most egregious example to date, since they spoil the climax of the season finale and the Key arc.
    • The Cutie Mark Magic toyline was on store shelves long before this was revealed to be a major theme for season 5.
    • Series 3 of the trading cards spoils a lot of events (big and small) from the fifth season. Along with the card for Bulk Biceps stating that he has a part-time job at the Ponyville Day Spa (proven to be true in episode 3), the card for the Cutie Mark Crusaders states that Apple Bloom may get her episode with Princess Luna soon (Bloom and Gloom), the card for Pinkie Pie mentions "griffon scones" (The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone), the card for Maud Pie claims that she secretly dreams of attending the Grand Galloping Gala (Make New Friends But Keep Discord), and the card for Coco Pommel states that she is a costume designer for a play called "My Fair Filly" and that she is attempting to revive her neighbourhood community theater (Made in Manehattan).
    • The secret Pinkie Pie finds out in "The One Where Pinkie Pie Knows" was spoiled by the toys a long time ago, so the majority of the fandom already knew what it was.
  • A website about merchandise for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) showcased Bebop and Rocksteady from the first cartoon. This not only gave away that Bebop and Rocksteady would be in the show, but various aspects of Rocksteady's design showed strong similarities to a character named Steranko. Later, the show introduced Anton Zeck, who wears the same outfit that the website's render of Bebop wears.
  • Thomas the Tank Engine does this a lot with merchandise based on its various movies and specials. Specifically:
    • In the Hero of the Rails merchandise, while not an exact interpretation, Hiro's "Patchwork" model revealed that the engines used spare parts from the Sodor Steamworks to repair him. There was even some merchandise spoiling the fact that he says farewell to the engines at the docks before heading home at the end of the film, including a Take-Along 4-car pack, and a Wooden Railway playset.
    • The Wooden Railway, Take-N-Play, and Trackmaster models of Yellow Rheneas reveal the fact that Rheneas gets a yellow coat of paint in The Stinger of Blue Mountain Mystery. Victor's Wooden Railway, Take-N-Play, and Trackmaster models that tie in with the same special depict him in his yellow livery, indicating that he was the yellow engine that Luke inadvertently knocked into the sea when they first came to Sodor.
    • The Wooden Railway "Treasure At The Mine Figure 8 Set" depicts the scene in King of the Railway where Stephen finds the lost crown of King Godred in an abandoned mine.
    • Some of the Tale of the Brave merchandise reveals the fact that the engines find dinosaur bones in the China Clay pits towards the end of the movie. These include the Wooden Railway "Oliver's Fossil Freight" model, which depicts Oliver pulling a freight car with a fossilized dinosaur skeleton, and the Take-N-Play "Roaring Dino Run" playset, where Thomas finds dinosaur bones and delivers them to the museum.
    • Skiff's Wooden Railway model depicts him with his "Skiff's Railboat Tours" signs, indicating his Heel–Face Turn at the end of Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure. The Little Golden Book adaptation also spoils the ending, wherein Sailor John steals the treasure, but loses it in the sea.
  • Transformers.
    • The Transformers Animated toy of Shockwave shows his Autobot alter ego of Longarm Prime.
    • The Tiny Titans subline of Transformers: Robots in Disguise included figures of Bisk and Quillfire, one-shot Decepticons in season 1, sporting the scratched Decepticon insignia of Steeljaw's pack, thus spoiling that they would join the pack in season 2.
  • One of the LEGO Star Wars The Freemaker Adventures sets spoils that Naare is actually working for the Empire.
  • In-universe example in the The Simpsons episode, "Steal this Episode". A Krusty Burger promotion for the Radioactive Man Re-Rises movie has toys of characters from the movie, including The Collider, the film's villain. The Collider's phrases are, "I turn out to be a good guy." and "I die, but I come back to life after the credits.", much to the chagrin of Homer, who had not seen Radioactive Man Re-Rises at the time.
  • Steven Universe:
    • In the first week of May 2016, the Cartoon Network Anything app released various things about the Baseball Episode, "Hit The Diamond".
    • A little while after "Mr. Greg" aired, CN Anything released a 13 second clip from the upcoming episode "Monster Reunion", spoiling a few very important things about the episode. And then put "Spoiler alert!" after the clip was shown.
    • Only a few days after the clip from "Monster Reunion" was released, CN Anything released a clip from the upcoming episode "Alone At Sea". Thankfully, the clip was not nearly as much of a spoiler as the "Monster Reunion" clip.
    • All of these are topped by CN releasing the entirety of the fifth Steven Bomb on the app. They were taken off after a couple hours, but spoilers were pretty much everywhere by then.

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