Hello. If you thought you'd gotten your fill of cuteness for today, I'm here to tell you that you're wrong. Sorry! Soon-to-be-married filmmaker Lee Loechler (sorry, spoiler, she said yes!) has basically ruined proposals forever with his viral Sleeping Beauty proposal to his high school sweetheart, cardiologist Sthuthi David, and it was a literal fairy tale moment. In case you haven't watched it, he hacked the scene where Prince Phillip revives Aurora with true love's kiss so that animations of himself and David appeared as the two protagonists. In the video, animated-Loechler "tossed" real-Loechler the ring box, and real-Loechler got down on one knee to propose. Yes, this really happened and there's video proof.
Loechler's plan first started as an idea he suggested to a friend. “A few years back, a friend of mine told me he was planning to propose to his then-girlfriend, and I suggested he should Forrest Gump himself into her favorite movie, and then have his on-screen character ‘toss’ the ring to his real-life self,” Loechler tells Elite Daily. ("Forrest Gump" is a technical term used in film to describe the effect of inserting someone into old, historical footage, much like in the movie Forrest Gump.) "I don't know where that idea came from, but it felt fun and magical, and it played into my skillset as a filmmaker. He didn't think it was right for him, so I filed it away for later use.”
When things started getting serious with David, Loechler began considering how he would propose, and returned to the idea of doing it by hacking her favorite film, Sleeping Beauty. The only problem was, it's animated. “I know some After Effects, but am by no means an animator, let alone capable of generating something that would hold up side-by-side with Disney," Loechler shared. "But, on a whim, I scrubbed through Sleeping Beauty, and noted that in the climactic scene there was very little movement. Maybe — if it's mostly static — I can still pull this off.”
Loechler began looking for an artist to help bring his dream proposal to life. “I went on Instagram and started following various Disney art hashtags, hoping to find an illustrator who was up to the task," he recalls. "It wasn't until I stumbled on Kayla’s work that the first inkling set in that this might be possible after all." He's referring to Kayla Coombs, the illustrator who helped him put together the now-viral animation. Loechler says they worked on it together for six months.
Loechler had one more co-conspirator in the proposal: David’s mother, who helped him get David to the movie without her suspecting a thing. “So that she wouldn't suspect foul play, I doctored an email blast from the theater (with their permission) and changed the movie it advertised to instead say Sleeping Beauty, and the time and date and all that," he explains. "I sent the doctored email to her mom, and asked her to send it to Sthuthi along with the message: 'I saw the Coolidge is screening your favorite movie, so I got tickets for the whole family, and one for Lee if he can come.' So, not only did Sthuthi not suspect a thing, it was a proud moment when she called me a few days later and invited me to her own surprise proposal,” says Loechler. And because David suspected that a proposal was coming in the near future, Loechler even took the misdirection one step further. “I started dropping hints that [the proposal] would be the following day, New Year's Eve," he shares. "It turned out to be a great bit of misdirection. She didn't suspect a thing!” He also posted to the Boston subreddit a month ago asking for "random internet strangers to help fill a small theater" so David wouldn't notice the theater was only full of people she knew.
Fortunately for Loechler, he was confident about David’s answer. “One of the things I love and admire most about her is that she is very up front. As a partner, it helps me be there for her, rather than having to guess what she's thinking. Luckily she had made it known she was ready to take the next step. Otherwise no way would I have had the cojones to do something like this,” Loechler says. “Big public proposals can be sweet, but I could never imagine putting someone on the spot like that if you're not 100% sure they will say yes. Even knowing her answer, I had plenty of second thoughts about the plan, especially as it started to grow in scope.”
Despite all the meticulous planning and work that went into creating the perfect proposal, Loechler says he still had a case of pre-proposal jitters. “I was absolutely losing my mind!," he admits. "When you watch the hidden camera footage from earlier parts of the movie, you can see me fidgeting endlessly and mouthing to myself the words I was planning to say. Luckily she was very engrossed in the film and didn't notice.”
It’s not surprising that the proposal struck a chord with people and the video quickly went viral. Loechler says he's been moved by the response. “The most incredible part has been seeing people tag one another in the comments, not just in English but in all sorts of languages — even some that my keyboard can’t replicate. That, more than anything else, has meant a lot. It’s awesome to see how these special moments can resonate, even outside the language of origin,” he says.
It's fair to say that the bar has been set pretty high for all marriage proposals moving forward. If anyone's earned a “happily ever after,” it's these two.