How Saturday Night Live Changed Avatar 2

By Sean Thiessen | Published

Saturday Night Live Avatar

Life influences comedy, but sometimes, comedy influences life. In 2017, NBC’s legendary variety show Saturday Night Live aired a hilariously melodramatic sketch with Ryan Gosling making fun of the fact that James Cameron’s Avatar, the highest-grossing film of all time, used the standard typeface Papyrus for its logo. According to an article by Entertainment Weekly, the skit caught the attention of the Avatar filmmakers and may have even prompted a change for the film’s upcoming sequel.

Written by Julio Torres, star of the recently canceled HBO Max series Los Espookys, the sketch features Gosling as a man tortured by the stock font Papyrus. Years after the release of Avatar, he still fails to reconcile the fact that such a large movie, created by some of the top artists in the world, resorted to such a cheap standard for its logo. The Saturday Night Live sketch created quite a buzz when it aired, and even found its way to Avatar producer Jon Landau and director James Cameron.

In the sketch, Gosling’s character is astonished at the revelation from his therapist that an Avatar sequel is in development, and is overcome by hope that an opportunity to correct the Papyrus mistake has finally arrived. Though neither Landau nor Cameron admitted to the Saturday Night Live sketch affecting their creative decisions on the Avatar sequel, the sketch certainly left an impression.

When asked about the Saturday Night Live Papyrus sketch, Landau was quick to turn the joke into a demonstration of Avatar’s long-lasting relevance. He also explained that Papyrus was substituted for a new font in the upcoming sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water. The updated font, which Landau says is called Toruk, is a typeface that was designed exclusively for upcoming Avatar films when the team realized that Avatar was developing as a franchise with multiple IPs.

saturday night live avatar
Ryan Gosling in the Saturday Night Live that changed Avatar: The Way of Water

As for James Cameron, it wasn’t until the Saturday Night Live sketch that the acclaimed director even knew Avatar used a standard font for its logo. Known for sticking to his guns, Cameron let the teasing and criticism roll off of him ultimately admitted his partiality to Papyrus. 

Over a decade in the making, Avatar: The Way of Water hits theaters December 16, 2022. The film boasts an unfathomable budget, which puts it in the precarious position of having to be one of the highest grossing films ever made just to break even. Landau and Cameron seem confident that, as evidenced by the Saturday Night Live sketch, Avatar has maintained cultural relevance; whether or not that relevance translates to buying tickets is another matter.

The long-anticipated sequel arrives in a world dominated by streaming, franchise fatigue, and collective recovery from a pandemic, which are factors the original Avatar did not have to contend with. There is a lot of pressure on the film to perform well at the box office, and how The Way of Water does financially may impact not only the future of the Avatar franchise, but the film industry as a whole.

Perhaps after the world returns to Pandora this weekend, Saturday Night Live and Ryan Gosling will return to the man consumed by Papyrus, and Toruk can finally offer the vindication he has been searching for.