Earlier this summer, In a Heartbeat, a short animated-film produced by college students, swept the world by storm. The charming, 4-minute short follows a love story between two young boys, one of which has his heart literally popping out of his chest as he swoons over the other.

Photo Source: CBC.ca

Esteban Bravo and Beth David, both computer animation majors at Ringling College of Art and Design, created In a Heartbeat as their thesis project. As a film student myself, I can confidently say that no student ever expects their school project to go viral, but it’s definitely something we daydream about. Bravo and David’s film hit the ground running, and it deserves every second of praise and attention it gets.

Although LGBTQ characters are now seen on-screen more than ever, the representation of these characters is seriously lacking in children’s media. The fact that this film got such a widely positive reception from the world is a step forward in the progression of kids film and television. It almost goes without saying that this film likely wouldn’t have gone viral if it was a traditional boy-meets-girl tale.

“From a business standpoint, it makes sense why studios are afraid to portray LGBT characters, just because there’s still part of the population that’s not accepting,” Bravo said. “But as leaders of children’s content, it’s really important for them to represent these people because not showing LGBT characters leads to a lot of internalized confusion as kids grow up.”

“We do want our films to be universal, but we know that because it’s animation it’s assumed that it’s for children. And we want that to be OK,” David said.

Bravo and David revealed that In a Heartbeat was originally not a gay-romance tale:

“A friend of ours was pitching ideas to us for potential projects,” Explains David.“It was her idea to show a person with their heart popping out of their chest, chasing down a crush. But initially it was about a boy and a girl. It wasn’t until Esteban and I decided to switch it to a same-sex crush that the film started to feel like a personal story that we were invested in. It was the kind of story we wish we had seen as kids.”

Three days after In a Heartbeat was released, it raked in 12 million views. Humbled and taken aback by the success, Bravo and David are both still over the moon with the emotional response viewers had with the film. The two have hinted at their aspirations for making In a Heartbeat into a feature-length film or a series, but for now they’re still soaking up that wonderful feeling of having their art loved by the masses.

You can watch In a Heartbeat here: