'I never anticipated this': The Aussie artist behind viral Sleeping Beauty proposal video

Kayla Coombs is a Melbourne based illustrator and character designer who quit her full-time job as a scientist to pursue her dream of being an artist.

She holds a Bachelor of Science from The University of Melbourne, and worked as an Analytical Chemist for a global company, before changing careers and “doing a massive 180 from science to art.”

“When I quit my science job, I wasn't in a position where I could make a living out of art,” Ms Coombs said.

Kayla Coombs, otherwise known as the 'sleeping beauty proposal artist' is the Melbourne woman behind that viral proposal video that reimagined Disney's classic animated film. Credit: Kayla Coombs

The 25-year-old said she “just had to push fear aside” after deciding to make such a massive career change.

“You're going to fail, it's going to happen,” she said.

“There's a 100 per cent chance that you'll fail, but just accepting that, and pushing forward regardless - that mental barrier, was the hardest part to get through,” she told Yahoo News Australia.

Three years since officially quitting her job, Ms Coombs has illustrated and designed artwork for many large, and small projects including children’s books, advertising, animation projects as well as print media and merchandise.

Today, the self-taught artist has over 50,000 fans on her Instagram account, and over 2,700 people follow her illustration work on Facebook.

Aussie illustrator and character designer Kayla Coombs at her Melbourne studio office. Credit: Kayla Coombs

One of those fans happens to be Lee Loechler, an American filmmaker who is currently leading the original content department affiliated with Friends At Work, an artist management company in California that represents musicians John Legend and Lindsey Stirling.

“He happened to see my work on Instagram, he had this idea and was looking for an artist that could potentially make it happen for him,” Ms Coombs explained.

“I got an email from him one day asking if I would be interested and available to do some art to help him propose to his girlfriend.

“And, I was like yes! Tell me more!” Ms Coombs recalled.

The result was a truly beautiful moment which captured the hearts of internet users around the world when it went viral this week.

Together, the pair spent six months turning Disney classic Sleeping Beauty into an ingenious proposal stunt that blurred the lines between fiction and fact.

Speaking to Yahoo News Australia, Ms Coombs revealed that Mr Loechler's epic Disney inspired proposal video almost didn't happen.

His email landed in her inbox in April last year, inquiring about whether she could take the project on. However Ms Coombs was already booked out with work filling her calendar for the foreseeable months at the time.

“I would love to do it, but it's probably going to take me a while,” she told him.

“Luckily he said it was fine, he was aiming for a December proposal anyway,” she said.

‘Proposals are a one-time thing’

The groom-to-be wanted to incorporate animated versions of himself and his girlfriend, Stuthi David, within Disney’s Sleeping Beauty movie, as the main component of his proposal plan.

“He had quite a big idea, I noticed that he was holding back a bit as it would be a lot of work for whoever took this project on,” Ms Coombs said.

But she didn't want him to hold back. Ms Coombs encouraged him to “aim high,” and reveal his biggest dream because “proposals are a one-time thing”.

Six months later the project was finalised.

“I've spent more hours looking at Stuthi's face than Lee has, so I'm glad we got there in the end,” she said.

Stuthi David (left) and Lee Loechler (right). Photo: Instagram/Lee Loechler

“It started off with Lee wanting to have a small portion of the film to be animated.”

“Then we came up with the idea of ‘let's [get the animated prince] to toss the ring in the air’ for him [Lee] to catch,” she told Yahoo News Australia.

Going viral

With the help of family, friends and a “crowd” of local Redditors, he popped the question in a packed Massachusetts cinema that happened to be screening Disney's Sleeping Beauty, his girlfriend's favourite movie.

“One of the reasons why he filmed it [the proposal] was for me to see Stuthi’s reaction after we had been working on it for so long,” she said. “He was proposing in Boston, and I couldn't be there.

Ms Coombs expertly recreated an alternate ending of the sixty-year-old classic Disney film in perfect timing, so that Mr Loechler could “catch the ring” tossed to him by the animated version of himself from the screen.

“She thought the cinema had bought a knock-off version of Sleeping Beauty with an alternate princess at the end,” Ms Coombs said with a laugh.

“All I wanted was for Stuthi to like it, but, I never anticipated this.”

“I never thought in a million years that it would go viral,” she said.

Kayla Coombs' Disney inspired 'Sleeping Beauty' animated characters representing US couple Stuthi David and Lee Loechler. Credit: Kayla Coombs
Lee Loechler proposed to his high school sweetheart Stuthi David by reworking Disney's classic film Sleeping Beauty with Aussie artist Kayla Coombs. Photo: YouTube/Lee Loechler

Almost 5.5 million people have watched the heartwarming moment after posting her reaction video on his YouTube channel.

“It's been wild, I can't believe the love people have for it,” Ms Coombs beamed.

“The messages I've gotten from people saying that the video has made them smile, and they've shared it with other people to make them smile - I'm just shocked and appreciative all at once.”

“It's definitely been a career highlight so far, and I would have never seen it coming,” she said.

Paying it forward to the bushfire relief effort

There couldn't have been a better time for Ms Coombs’ work to go viral.

She is donating 100 per cent of all profit made from a children's book she illustrated to the Australian bushfire relief effort this month.

“What Can We Be? is a book that I worked on with UK author Ryan Crawford last year,” she explained.

“It's a sweet story about a little girl named Millie who wants to be a firefighter, just like her dad.”

For the whole month of January (2020) all proceeds from "What Can We Be?", a children's book Kayla Coombs illustrated will go to the Australian bushfire relief effort. Credit: Kayla Coombs

“From what I've heard, what they need right now is financial support to get the supplies needed for the firefighters, to the people who have been displaced, and to help wildlife that need to be re-homed and cared for,” she told Yahoo News Australia.

By donating all the proceeds from every book sold on her website to the bushfire relief effort, Ms Coombs feels that it was the best way for her to “give back.”

“With the firefighter thread through it [the book], I thought it was a no-brainer.”

“It's connected to the cause and the main way I can help,” she said.

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