Jackalope Junction aims to be the anti-Disneyland

Who is Jackalope Jim? He’s the scrappy heart of a multimedia realm Greg Schumsky created to bring old-school American values back to the theme-park experience.

Call Jackalope Junction the anti-Disneyland.

Schumsky, who boasts an extensive background in interactive design, video, film, and animation, can’t help but dream big. His biggest vision entails a throwback media empire topped by a theme park that’s family-friendly and without any whiff of woke.

Now, he needs investors and the land to bring that vision home.

A childhood haven

The idea began with Marshal Scotty’s Playland Park, an abandoned amusement park in El Cajon, California.

“It was like our Disneyland,” Schumsky recalls of a place where he spent some of his formative years.

Those childhood memories took a different form around 2019. He began creating a Western/steampunk realm populated by anthropomorphic animals.

He dubbed it Jackalope Junction, a theme park/hotel/children’s program (and more) spun from his fertile imagination.

Disney has Mickey Mouse. This Junction boasts Jackalope Jim, the local sheriff and “the fastest draw in the West.” Schumsky created a sprawling landscape of colorful creatures and sophisticated backgrounds for the key players.

Think the Wild West with a splash of animatronics. Ol’ Jim, born with just one arm, makes up for the loss with a robotic limb, for example. That steampunk wrinkle came from one of his children.

Throwback family fare

Schumsky sees Jackalope Junction as a multimedia enterprise spanning books, TV shows, the theme park headquarters, and more. Stories that begin on the TV series would spill into the park, he says.

He’s inspired by throwback family fare like “The Andy Griffith Show” and “The Waltons,” stories appropriate for the whole family. Young fans loved those characters, while their parents cheered the life lessons embedded in the stories.

“Children are smart and can think and ask questions and learn,” he says. His Junction yarns will teach about “humility and honesty and all sorts of great stuff, biblical values.”

Schumsky has a website, logos, contributing partners, and even a slick illustration of his signature character by longtime friend and Pixar animator Victor Navone. His animation ties to folks in the Themed Entertainment Association, as well as his own time working for Storyland Studios, connected him with industry veterans who know their way around a pencil and pad.

The California resident has kind words for the Disney legacy and talent, but that’s where his plaudits end.

“There are a lot of great people who work at Disney,” he says. He extends this regard to Disney’s iconic theme parks as well. “Walking around, there is some sort of magic you feel that Walt [Disney] created that’s still there despite all the changes.”

That starts with what he sees as exorbitant fees along with the culture war battles being waged by Team Disney in recent years.

“We had Disney stock … we sold it pretty high. We saw what was happening,” he says, alluding to the cultural changes within Disney programming, including extensive LGBTQ+ content aimed at young minds.

Schumsky’s plans are ambitious, and they won’t come cheap.

His current estimates are the in $45-$60 million range, and he still has to find the perfect spot to start breaking ground on his 20-acre plan. A previous version of Jackalope Junction with a smaller budget of $30 million fell through in 2020.

He’s looked around California and even Tennessee for a potential home, eager for a rural spot where visitors can escape the urban jungle.

It’s a one-man dream with a sizeable twist.

Previous media coverage inspired strangers to reach out, each offering their unique skills to nudge the project forward. Plus, he’s aligned with several professionals with the kind of experience to help him see his project through when the right deal happens.

Leap of faith

Schumsky’s strong Christian faith has buckled a time or two along the way, but he credits God for keeping his plans on track.

“I would get angry and say, ‘I can’t do this any more,’” he says. The next morning he’d get a call from a theme park designer eager to collaborate on his vision. “When you think He’s not there, He’s there. We get so wrapped up in ourselves.”

The next step? Scouting potential land in California’s Riverside County. The parcel in question is far from perfect, but it boasts a massive oak tree that was spared from a recent fire, much like the fictional town of Schumsky’s imagination, Mighty Oak Springs.

Schumsky’s vision doesn’t exclude John and Jane Sixpack. Far from it. He envisions an “affordable” park that won’t set families back a fortune.

“One of the major mistakes Disney made was outpricing their core audience to the point of those guests having to get loans or mortgage their homes in order to spend a day with their families,” he says.

And don’t expect any shocking experiences while on site.

“We won’t allow the men to wear fingernail polish or dress as women, unless it’s for comedy in some show. Women will wear dresses, period-correct dresses, unless they’re a gunslinger,” he says.

“I think it’s gonna be something that people will go to not just for a fun day and a relaxing day, but it’s gonna feel like they step back in time into our town,” he says.

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