The Walking Dentist

This Indiana dentist's geeky billboards are too good for this world

Contributed by
Aug 22, 2018, 3:30 PM EDT

Some fan films are produced as calling cards, to help aspiring filmmakers sell their talent to Hollywood producers. Others are made out of pure love for the source material. Jill Snyder makes her fan movies to advertise her dental practice in Frankfort, Indiana.

Snyder's latest ad campaign features her dressed as Star-Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy, which has for this parody's purposes been renamed Guardians of the Gums (and directed, obviously, by James Gumm). She's been making similar movie-themed ads for years, Snyder tells SYFY WIRE, but because Frankfort is a small town, with about 16,000 people according to the 2010 census, they've largely remained a local sensation. But a photo of a billboard featuring the Guardians of the Gums parody went semi-viral on Tuesday, introducing the world to ArDente Dental's vast archive of cinematic homages.

"All of our advertising is based on movies or TV shows and we always try to have some kind of play on words or link it in some way," Snyder, who had not seen the viral tweet and was surprised but gracious in a phone call on Wednesday, told SYFY WIRE. "We've done Star Wars too — we did Gum Wars and Return of the Floss."

The tradition started about seven years ago, when ArDente spoofed on Men in Black with Women in Black, featuring the women who worked at the practice at the time. The company's Facebook page is stocked with old billboards and print ads for past campaigns, which range from Minions (they went with "Minion Dollar Smile") and CSI ("Cavity Scene Investigators") to Wonder Woman ("Wonderful Smiles") and The Walking Dead ("The Walking Dentist," obviously).

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Snyder tries to create a new billboard each month, which helps generate business — it's become their brand — and keeps her staff brainstorming.

"People try to create some fun ideas for me, but usually it comes mostly from my staff," she says. We've had some that patients have suggested. One of the Minions ones, somebody suggested, so we had a little shout out to them on the bottom of the billboard."

Snyder's ex-husband was a cinephile and her three sons are superhero geeks, meaning that she spends a lot of time in movie theaters and watching genre TV shows. "My favorite Marvel movies have probably been the Guardians movies," she said. "I didn't think I'd like them, but I actually loved them. And I've seen most of the Marvel movies."

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And so, when it was time to film their new commercial, Snyder obviously wanted to step into the red leather jacket of Chris Pratt's character Star-Lord. The commercials are shot by a local company called Mulberry Telecommunications, which sets up a green screen in Snyder's basement and roughly plots out homages to trailers and famous clips. In the Guardians ad, they wound up fighting big cavity bugs — an idea that Snyder suggested herself.

"I wanted to jump in like they did, but instead of having swords, I wanted to have my toothbrush," she said, laughing. "Probably the hardest scene in the whole thing was when we tried to squirt toothpaste at it. That didn't work really well. We were squirting toothpaste all over the floor, trying to figure out ways to get it to squirt out."

Up next is an homage to It, though they have to be careful to remember that as creative as they want to be, in the end, they're still trying to sell dentist services.

"The first thing they sent me was like, oh my God, this will ruin my business," she said, laughing. "It was so creepy. I was like, no, we can't do creepy. We have to do fun."