Mark Firestone Design Portfolio

Karimu Jungle Railway

Project Details

Date Completed

August 2002




Concepts to update the Indianapolis Zoo train ride to provide a more engaging, immersive and entertaining experience for guests.

Skills Used

Storyboarding, Pencil Sketching, Show Writing

Concept Document:

This is the concept document outlining the proposed changes to the train ride.

Best viewed in full screen mode.


Deemed too costly, the version of the ride proposed in the above concept document was never approved. Future revisions abandoned the highly themed environments and African village backstory and instead focused on enhancing the “behind-the-scenes” story as depicted in my sketches below. (Click images for larger versions.)

At the start of the ride, the train station would receive a modest update with new paint colors, an enhanced audio system, and some monitors to play video clips of various zoo operations while guests wait to board.
In a space between facilities buildings, the concept was to create the zoo’s Weather Station, where weather is monitored around the clock. A special effect of a cloud with perpetual rainfall would be built to one side.
As the train passed by the back gate, the concept was to build this up as the delivery area and tell stories of how much food and other necessary supplies come into the zoo to provide care for the animals.
Passing by the zoo’s veterinary hospital, the idea was to really tell the stories of what happens at this facility. Large signs would be erected showing images that would be accompanied by the onboard audio narration.
In this scene, we created a storyline where the train ride “used to” pass through more animal exhibits, but the bridge was washed out, so the route was modified to pass through behind-the-scenes service areas of the zoo.
As the ride passed an actual gas pump, the concept was to spruce this up and add a leaky water tower in the area. Additional theming elements would be added to the existing gas pump area to complete the scene.
In an effort to add some additional fun to the ride, an existing tunnel would be converted into a train wash. Fans, mist and bubbles would provide a sensory experience as the train passes through the space.
At the bottom of a large hill behind the elephant exhibit, the concept was to setup an elephant research camp that served as the basis for us to tell stories about the zoo’s elephant research and conservation efforts.

Although this version of the ride also didn’t get fully realized, elements of the concept did make their way into the revamped ride that debuted in 2005. You can view more information about that ride in the separate portfolio entry below.

Check It Out: Click here to view the portfolio entry for the 2005 train ride update.

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