A Disney fan who never got to go to the famous theme parks as a kid has turned his passion into a successful influencer career.
Andrew, 29, from Liverpool, watched the fairytale films as a way to cope in a difficult period of his childhood – sparking a life-long love of Disney's films, characters and parks.
He finally managed to go to one of the magical theme parks at the age of 21 and now has over 69,000 loyal fans on his Disney-themed Instagram page, @andrewsgrotto.
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Having started the page in 2015, it was a relatively small page of like-minded Disney fans, but after the pandemic stuck a “bored” Andrew decided to throw his creativity into the profile. Success soon followed.
Speaking to Daily Star, Andrew said: “I think what sparked my love for Disney was the sense of escapism, I was bullied a lot as a kid and I don’t think anything made me feel more at ease than watching my favourite Disney Movies. I’d just get lost in the magic and fantasy of it all and that love has just grown as I’ve gotten older.
“I never actually went to a Disney Park growing up, which people are always shocked to hear.
“My Mum and Dad paid for me to go for my 21st Birthday which I think was a dream for them – to be able to send me – as much as it was mine to go.”
From there, Andrew’s super-fan status has only grown, but his favourite park remains Disneyland Paris.
He commented: “My favourite park is and always will be Disneyland Paris. I don’t know whether that’s because it was the first park I ever went too or it’s the park where I’ve made the most memories but Paris holds a special place in my heart.
“There’s such a magical homey feeling I get whenever I walk through those gates, it’s never left me."
Surprisingly, for a Disneyland obsessive, Andrew is scared of rollercoasters, but there’s plenty to do at Disney parks outside of the thrill-rides – and Andrew makes the most of all of it.
He said: "I prefer the immersive rides like ‘Ratatouille: The Adventure’ and Spider Man WEB Adventure, but I also love the classic rides like Buzz Lightyear Laser blast, it’s a small world and Pirates of the Caribbean.
"I love meeting the Princesses. Princesses were my favourite as a child and it hasn’t gone away. There’s nothing like talking to Ariel about your adventures.
“It’s magical moments like that which really make the Disney park experience what it is.”
And, it’s Andrew’s love for every part of Disney that made him start his channel Andrew’s Grotto.
He explained: “I started a Disney themed Instagram account in all honesty to stop annoying my friends and family with photos of my Disney collection.
“I thought I’d create a separate space dedicated to my passions and collection, and follow other people who had those same passions."
He also wanted to encourage other Disney fans who don’t quite fit the mould to dive into their passions.
“I was bullied for loving Disney and princesses from such a young age but I never let it stop my love for it,” the influencer noted. “It’s irritating, I got told I was wrong for loving Disney as a child cause I was a boy and now I get told I’m wrong for loving it cause I’m an adult, I can’t win.
“I wanted to show people that ‘Boys can like princesses too’ and it’s ok and to never be ashamed of what makes you happy.”
And, his love for Disney hasn’t just landed him a large following, as a perk of his page, Andrew recently visited the D23 Expo and Disneyland California.
He told the Travel team: “I’ve recently started collaborating with Disney Parks UK and thanks to them I was able to complete a big dream of visiting Disneyland in California.
“It meant so much to visit that particular park cause it was the first Disneyland, it was Walt’s park and whilst I was there I could really feel the history, it was so magical.
“I’m so incredibly grateful for the opportunity, never in my wildest dreams did I think that could ever happen.”
As part of the trip, he got to attend the D23 Expo – where everything new and upcoming is announced.
He commented: “I have to say I’m very hyped for ‘Tiana’s Bayou Adventure’. A new attraction based on one of my favourite princesses? Um, YES PLEASE!
“Princess and the frog is such an underrated movie so it’s amazing to see the film get the love and attention it deserves.”
But, not all the perks of being a travel influencer are free holidays – Andrew also loves the connection he has with his followers.
He told us: “The biggest perk is sharing your excitement and passions with other people who feel the same way.
“It’s nice knowing theres so many people out there who understand you, cause I never had that sense of understanding as a kid.”
Andrew usually visits at least one Disney park a year – but after the pandemic indulged in four trips in 2022.
He noted: “I’ve been twice with friends and then another two times in collaboration with Disney Parks UK.”
And, his goal is to visit every park in the Disney roster – from Disneyland Paris to the parks in Tokyo and Shanghai.
There’s even a Disney resort in Hawaii you may never have heard of called Aulani.
Andrew said: "That’s actually been a goal of mine for a very long time. I would love to visit all the parks. Luckily I’ve visited the two US parks and Paris so now I need to visit the Asian parks next.
“Hong Kong Disneyland is next on my list.”
Having gone from a little kid who loved Princesses to an influencer who jets off to multiple parks per year Andrew’s love of Disney has transformed his life.
In Andrew's words: “It’s truly a dream come true."
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