A truly heartwarming scene unfolded late last month at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, Massachusetts.
Boston filmmaker Lee Loechler, with help from illustrator Kayla Coombs, edited himself and his girlfriend, Sthuthi David, into a scene in the Disney classic "Sleeping Beauty" as a way to propose to her.
According to the Coolidge Corner Theatre's website, on Dec. 30, Loechler filled the venue with friends and family "plus some strangers from Reddit to hide them all."
"I proposed to my girlfriend with the help of some random internet strangers. We did it Reddit!" he posted to Reddit Thursday.
The whole scene was captured on video and posted to Loechler's YouTube channel. As of Friday morning, it had already been viewed more than two million times.
"It’s not every day you get to propose to your High School sweetheart," Loechler said in an Instagram post.
He said he and a collaborator spent the past six months animating David and himself into her favorite movie. "The only thing better than seeing the smartest person I know completely dumbfounded was knowing we’d get to live happily ever after together."
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In the video, you can see Loechler and David watching the film together. As the main characters in the movie turn to face the camera, their likenesses change to those of the happy couple. The prince then opens a ring box and tosses it off screen to a now standing Loechler as their cartoon versions look on from the screen.
"I love you with my whole heart, including all of its ventricles, atriums, valves -- she's a cardiologist," Loechler says. "Sthuthi David, MD, will you live happily ever after with me?"
Of course, she said yes. But just in case, Loechler did prepare an alternate "Sthuthi Says No" ending for his movie featuring several weeping cartoon characters.
How Loechler Pulled Off the Proposal at 'an Icon'
The video has gone viral, with nearly 4 million views after a day. Loechler said in a phone interview that it's "the coolest feeling in the world watching those numbers as they're climbing."
He's got experience with viral videos, since his day job is as chief of content for the socially conscious artist management firm Friends at Work — remember the video where singer John Legend made fun of his resemblance to children's TV character Arthur? Loechler said he wrote and directed it — but it's not something he thought he'd ever be at the center of himself.
"It's surreal to see your own face in those places," he said, adding that the best part of the reaction has been the global response, seeing comments in other languages, even other alphabets.
Those views were a long time coming, and required plenty of planning to win.
Loechler learned that you can't drop a wedding ring box and have the ring inside stay presentable, and was particularly proud of the animation trick that he found to work around it. He said it's inspired some theorizing on the internet, and needed to correctly guess where he'd be sitting in the theater for it to work, which it did.
Lucky for Loechler, he and David live thousands of miles away from each other, for now, he in Los Angeles to work at his job, David in Charlottesville, Virginia, where she's a doctor. (He said she was unable to be interviewed Friday because she was on call for her job.)
"This was the one time where I was grateful for long distance," he joked, since it gave him plenty of time
But both grew up in Brookline, and Loechler in fact grew up around the corner from the Coolidge Corner Theatre, which he would walk past to get to school, where he once played in a talent show and which hosted a summer filmmaking course he says helped him become a filmmaker.
"I hope that every town has that local, small-town movie theater that's a landmark, that's an icon," he said.
And the theater played a big hand in the proposal, letting Loechler screen his edited version of the movie and fill it up with friends, family and extras recruited from Boston's Reddit community to keep their cover from being blown.
The staff also put Loechler and David's names up on the theater's classic marquee.
"It's just so above and beyond any other proposal I know," said Beth Gilligan, who works at the theater. "I think I know a lot of men who are like, 'Oh, gosh, I gotta step up my game all a sudden."
Loechler's sister, one of the many people who packed the screening, noted that it'll be hard for the couple to top their proposal at their wedding, too.
"It's a lot to top. It's a lot," Becca Loechler said. "It'll be a lot of fun, no matter, what because just celebrating their love for each other and how special this experience was will be a lot of fun."