Djuan Rivers is a prime example of the American success story. The Orlando native has been steadily working his way up the ranks of Walt Disney World Resort, with more than two decades of leadership experience under his belt.
Today, Rivers serves as vice-president of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, a role he has held for nearly two years. It comes as the popular theme park rolls out enhanced entertainment, including brand new nighttime attractions.
“My job is to make sure we bring magic and the experience that guests can remember for a lifetime,” said Rivers in a sit-down interview with UrbanGeekz’s Kunbi Tinuoye. “It’s really the operational oversight of an amazing place that mixes in everything from fabulous attractions to other engaging entertainment options.”
A 28-year Disney veteran, Rivers, now 51, started out at an entry-level managerial position skillfully working his way up to sought-after executive positions, including stints overseas. In 2008, the ambitious Emory University economics graduate was named Vice President of Disney Vacation Club Hawaii. In 2012, Rivers took on the post of Vice President Hotels and Business Solutions for Disneyland Paris.
His role at the helm of Animal Kingdom comes as the theme park continues to evolve, with expanded attractions and first time ever extended park hours scheduled to kick off this summer.
“For the last 18 years Disney’s Animal Kingdom has produced amazing products for our guests and offered amazing experiences but we have also limited all that to the daytime hours,” he added. “We are now transitioning to the night and when Disney’s Animal Kingdom falls underneath the stars we’re really creating an environment that’s unlike any other place on the planet.”
The highlight of these new experiences is a breathtaking musical nighttime show called Rivers of Night. With a waterway as its stage, the innovative new production celebrates the magic of animals, humans, and the natural world with a blend of performers, floating lanterns, and theatrical animal imagery.
Other additions include opportunities for guests to explore Kilimanjaro Safaris at night, more attractions staying open at nightfall and new additions at the Harambe Village and Discovery Island areas of Animal Kingdom.
The theme park’s iconic Tree of Life will also undergo extraordinary “awakenings” throughout the evening with high-tech projections of nature scenes coming to life on the tree. For the summer, Discovery River will become the stage for music and pageantry in a limited-engagement show inspired by Disney’s hit live-action film The Jungle Book.
In addition to the diverse new entertainment offerings, guests will enjoy Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s new signature eatery, Tiffins. Open for both lunch and dinner, this new signature dining experience will celebrate the art of traveling and include waterfront views from both indoor and outdoor seating areas.
Rivers, who reports directly to the President of Walt Disney World Resort’s president George Kalogridis, is one of the most senior African-Americans at Disney. He is clearly deeply passionate about everything Disney has to offer.
“The idea of creating these wonderful experiences is for our guests to experience the fabulous things they do during the day and then also add these incredible elements at night. The whole transformation is something that’s really turned out to be great.”
The nighttime offerings at Animal Kingdom are the first phase of the theme park’s largest expansion to date. A new fully immersive land, Pandora – The World of Avatar, is scheduled to open next year.
Follow Kunbi Tinuoye on Twitter@Kunbiti