Poppy shot to fame starring in this year’s Super Bowl commercial for the Jeep Gladiator with “Groundhog Day” actor Bill Murray as her sidekick. The 10-month old groundhog is more than just a celebrity starring in a commercial during the big game.
When a birth defect prevented her from living a full life in the wild, Poppy was rescued after being found end of a residence’s driveway. She lives with a licensed wildlife rehabilitator in Pennsylvania, which is also the home of Punxsutawney Phil and the setting (though not the filming location) for the cult classic movie “Groundhog Day”.
The commercial co-stars veteran actor Bill Murray.Photo courtesy of FCA USA LLC
The goal of wildlife rehabilitation is to return animals to the wild. However, as Poppy grew, it was determined by a team of veterinarians that Poppy suffers from a birth defect called Malocclusion. This defect prevents her from receiving sustinence via foraging in the manner of the typical groundhog because she cannot use her sharp incisors to eat or cut wood to build a den.
With that diagnosis, Poppy’s care team had to decide between three different options: 1) euthanize her, 2) humanely extract her teeth or 3) submit her to continual painful dental procedures throughout her life, which was not in her best interest from a humane standpoint.
Because Poppy was otherwise strong and capable, the care team decided to humanely extract her teeth and use her as an educational ambassador for wildlife in the state.
The scenes of the commercial involving the groundhog were filmed using a real groundhog, stuffed animal groundhog, and an animatronic groundhog. Some CGI techniques were used in post-production.
Poppy split starring duties with stuffed and animatronic groundhogs. Photo courtesy of FCA USA LLC
While filming the Jeep commercial, Poppy was under the constant care, supervision, and oversight of her handler/caretaker. Between takes she didn’t go to her trailer and talk to her agent. Instead she ate banana chips and nestled on her caretaker’s shoulders.
When Poppy isn’t starring in commercials, she works as a state- and USDA-licensed educational animal.