Aubrey Lebard is a full-time lecturer of marketing at Cal State Fullerton and was recently recognized for 40 years of teaching on campus. We talked to him about his most memorable visit to Disneyland, marketing, and how his collection got started.
Tell us more about your position at Cal State Fullerton.
I was originally a student there. In 1978, I was hired to teach, and I’ve been there ever since. I currently teach marketing, primarily the capstone class, which is the final class a marketing concentration student would take. It’s really a transitional class as we try to make sure that students have all the necessary skillsets for employment.
When did you get your first Mickey Mouse tie?
I got my first Mickey tie in the late ’60s and (started collecting) formally in ‘72 and that was when I was the treasurer for a person running for mayor. He was a really conservative guy (as far as his dress goes), and he always wore dark suits, except he wore two different colored socks. He always used it as a conversation starter because people would tell him he had the wrong-colored socks on. That was his thing. He said, ‘If you’re gonna be successful, you need some sort of personal brand or identifier.’ His thought was to go with Mickey ties. And, that’s what I did. I’ve got ties for all the holidays. Thin ones, wide ones. I’ve only retired four. The rest of them are pristine and in pretty good shape. I still have students from 35 to 40 years old that still remember the ties. I’m not sure they remember my name, but they certainly remember the ties.
How else are you able to incorporate Disney into the classroom?
Disney is without a doubt the premiere merchandiser in the world. They do that better than anybody. When they bought the Anaheim Ducks, they took the incidental amount of professional hockey merchandise being sold to multiple times what they were selling before. They can do that and they definitely market their movies and everything they do spectacularly well. It works out well for marketing because everybody in marketing kind of recognizes that.
When was the first time you went to Disneyland?
When I was young, Disneyland was actually going to be in my town La Habra but there was some political issues, and so it went to Anaheim. I was there the first year it was open. I was a Chamber of Commerce president and for the 25th anniversary, (Disneyland) invited Southern California mayors and Chamber of Commerce presidents to this special celebration. That kind of cemented it for me because we were the only ones there and it was kind of a big deal. We got to go into the tunnels where the cast get to go and to the backstage areas.
Tell us more about the design of the first tie you collected.
The first tie I had was the “thinking Mickey,” which is where he’s got his hands up to his forehead and he’s pondering the situation. I oftentimes will wear that the first couple of days of class to make sure that that’s what they’re doing. That they’re thinking of where they are and where they’re going.
How do you decide which tie to put on every day?
I make sure that I wear something throughout the semester and it would be dependent upon what color shirt and pants I have. I would never repeat a tie throughout the semester. Sometimes, I’ll go a couple of years and not wear one.
Any particular ties stand out to you?
I got some from Tokyo Disneyland and they were for the 35th anniversary of that facility. That was an incredible (visit) because it was the first time I had been there. It is even more customer-friendly than Disneyland, and it’s just incredible. I remember that afternoon a young child dropped their ice cream cone and one of the people in the parks that was a janitor came and picked it up and asked the mother and child to come with him and went over and got the child a new ice cream cone. That’s kind of emblematic of what they do, which is over-the-top customer service. Everybody was happy. It was the time of year where if you were under 16 and you wore a Halloween costume, you got in for free. So, everybody had costumes, and it was a fun time.
Any ties you’ve gotten recently?
In the late ’60s and through the ’70s and ’80s, most major department stores sold Mickey Mouse ties. Most of the ties I’ve gotten are gifts because that was an easy gift to get me. They’re not as readily available now. In fact, a good friend of mine was in Disneyland Paris, and they didn’t have any ties.
I got a new blue design recently that has a pretty large Mickey face on it that I will wear for sure every semester now. Normally, I can tell how it is by what students say. If I walk down a corridor, and a random student comes up and says ‘I like your tie,’ I can usually tell how well it’s going. The blue one is like that.
Why do you think Mickey Mouse is so iconic in pop culture?
I think it’s mostly because of his positive nature. The happy, doing-good-things side of him. It’s just a good, positive character. I think that’s what Walt had in mind in the beginning.
Check out the rest of our ‘Lightspeed to Disneyland!’ cover story at this page, which will be updated throughout the month.