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Family Finances

It's a Money-Smart World After All

Disney Imagineer Joe Tankersley helped design Epcot Center's The Great Piggy Bank Adventure, a game that aims to make personal finance fun.

As told to Thomas M. Anderson

Why tackle finance? Did the great drywall-hanging adventure not pan out?

We wanted to take personal finance away from being a job or a task and make it something that makes people think, Hey, I can do that. It's one of the great things about games. When guests do well at our game, they're motivated to go home and take on the real-world version.

How do you start The Great Piggy Bank Adventure?

The game is designed to be played by a family. First you set a goal. Then you get a piggy bank and step through a portal into a land populated with oversize piggy banks. Your piggy bank moves from the physical world to a virtual world at each of four stops, the first of which is a savings game. You use your piggy bank to collect as many coins as you can as they fall from the sky. The second stop is the inflation race. You pilot the piggy bank, which is in a hot-air balloon, away from the inflation monster.

Does the monster look like Ben Bernanke?

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It actually looks remarkably like the Big Bad Wolf. If you're caught, it will gobble up your coins and spit them out as smaller coins.

What happens next?

The third stop is about diversification, which is essentially a hide-and-seek game. You get a bunch of coins and your job is to stash them in different places. The more you spread out your coins, the less chance the inflation monster will get all of them. At the final stop your bank hops on a scale and tells you how well you did.

How successful is the game?

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We believe an exhibit is successful if we start a conversation. With this exhibit, we were surprised by the number of families who went through it repeatedly. I just watched a mother with her 5-year-old daughter play the game for a third time. That's a home run -- when we can get a guest to delay doing all the other fun things in the park and do the exhibit again.

How long will the game be available?

We started working on the project with T. Rowe Price, its sponsor, in spring 2007. The exhibit opened in May 2009 and is on a three-year contract. But we expect it to last a long time because the topic is never outdated.

You can play an online version of The Great Piggy Bank Adventure.