How A ‘Dishonest’ Font And SNL Joke Came To Define Avatar

As part of an article published by The Ringer, Papyrus creator Chris Costello revealed that it was only after Microsoft and Apple bought the font that it became pervasive. The public availability of the font led to it being overused — pure and simple. “I started seeing it everywhere,” Costello explained. When he checked out “Avatar” in 2009, he was, consequently, surprised to see how heavily the film relies on his font. “I thought it seemed like it worked, but others went really deep into the evils of not going the custom route,” he added. “It was at a time when Papyrus was overused.”

Mostly, the viewers who cared were upset that the “Avatar” team had seemingly spent so much money on making the film’s fictional world feel as real and new as possible only to rely on a publicly available, easily recognizable font like Papyrus. Articles were written about the decision. Director James Cameron and his collaborators, meanwhile, were mocked for their apparent love of the font, which had, along with Comic Sans, already become everyone’s favorite to make fun of by 2009. The jokes reached their zenith when “Saturday Night Live!” then released “Papyrus” in 2017.

For his part, Cameron claims that he wasn’t all that familiar with the font when he chose it to be in “Avatar.” Indeed, during an Empire Magazine Q&A conducted in 2022, Costello asked Cameron about the use of Papyrus in “Avatar,” to which the director responded, “I was not aware that our font was an off-the-shelf thing; I assumed the art department or the title company came up with it. Of course, it was trolled mercilessly, but frankly, I like the font.”


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