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The 'Avatar' team saw that 'SNL' sketch and designed a new font for the sequels
It's not just the Papyrus font this time around.
It's been a long wait between Avatar in 2009 and Avatar: The Way of Water hitting theaters later this month, but it's not like we've totally forgotten about James Cameron's original film in the meantime. In the years since Avatar's release, we've seen a theme park emerge, heard Cameron's progress reports from The Way of Water set, and of course, been haunted by the original film's font choices, courtesy of Saturday Night Live.
Back in 2017, SNL used host Ryan Gosling as the star for a pre-taped sketch which takes the form of a dark character piece about a man haunted by one particular truth about the world, a truth no one else seems to care about. He loses sleep, goes into deep depressive episodes, and even ends up stalking a graphic designer...all because he realizes that the title font for Avatar is Papyrus, a basic font available in off-the-shelf word processors that was then apparently used on the biggest movie of all-time.
The sketch immediately went viral, perhaps because of how straight everyone in the piece played things. And it also got more than a few people to notice that the Avatar title font really did look quite a lot like papyrus. So, did the font stick around? According to producer Jon Landau, while SNL might not have been the only motivator, Papyrus has been replaced in the sequels by a font specifically designed for the films.
"When we realized that the movie was going to expand into a franchise and we'd have other IPs, we went out and created our own font that we're now using, and we call it Toruk, and it's available for people to use," Landau told Entertainment Weekly, noting that he "absolutely" saw the SNL bit. "But the Papyrus font is a fun thing, and I also love the fact that… it was certainly several years after the movie came out, and I guess it illustrated to people who were questioning Avatar's cultural relevance that it was still part of the culture."
Landau and his team aren't the only people aware of the sketch. According to Slashfilm, James Cameron told Empire magazine earlier this year that he's also aware of the bit, and that he wasn't even aware that his graphics team had chosen a standard font. But "frankly," he likes Papyrus just the same.
Avatar: The Way of Water is in theaters Dec. 16.
Looking for more SNL laughs? All 48 seasons are now streaming on Peacock.