I have experienced both the Harry Potter themed Diagon Alley experience at Universal Theme Park in Orlando and the Star Wars themed Galaxy’s Edge at Walt Disney World in the very same town. The two experiences beg for comparison.
Each is the tentpole branded immersive experience in its respective theme park, and each aims to completely immerse you in its respective fictional universe. On a surface level, they couldn’t be more different.
Diagon Alley is, like everything in the Harry Potter universe, musty and old-fashioned in a charming way. You are transported back to the make-believe and cozily out of date England of Goodbye Mr. Chips and similar offerings.
In contrast, Galaxy’s Edge is every inch a child of Foundation, Dune and Syd Mead, as is everything in the Star Wars universe. This is the DIY techno-punk “Wild West in the Galactic Future” of our very American fantasy.
Yet both experiences are, structurally speaking, exactly the same. Both are driven by the twin engines of good-versus-evil, with magic being the weapon of choice. In both cases, we root for the scrappy underdog good guys in their perpetual fight against, essentially, Nazis.
But beyond that, the two theme park experiences contain all of the same mechanical components. There is the town square, the array of character-themed gift shops, the cleverly themed in-world places to eat and drink, always served by people who appear to be of that world.
In one place you can pay lots of money to build your own wand. In the other you can pay lots of money to build your own lightsaber.
There are even special otherworldly drinks that you can get only in-world. In one place you get Butter Beer. In the other you get Blue Milk.
The more you look at them, the more you realize that Diagon Alley and Galaxy’s Edge are sourced from exactly the same “High-end Immersive Park Experience” (HIPE) playbook. The two places are essentially one place with two different “skins”.
If you take careful notes, you might be able to reconstruct the entirety of the HIPE playbook that both are working from. Which might be necessary, because as far as I know it is not for sale.