One of the frustrating things about deep dives into pop culture history is the people who have fallen through the cracks. There is no Wikipedia page for one of the stars of this short. He has an IMDb page, which gives scanty personal information about him. He has 37 film appearances, mostly uncredited, including several legitimate classics. Billy Mitchell—there are many Billy Mitchells with Wikipedia pages, just not this one—was in Double Indemnity as Pullman Porter (uncredited) and The Bank Dick as Depositor Withdrawing Money (uncredited). He even played Buckwheat’s father once. Yes, uncredited.
As Mickey (still Walt at this point) and Pluto (Lee Millar, as this was during Pinto Colvig’s falling out with the studio) are digging a foundation for a new doghouse for Pluto [shrugs], they dig up an old oil lamp. Mickey rubs it, and of course it’s magic lamp (voiced by Billy Mitchell, obviously). Mickey has it build the doghouse, then give Pluto a bath. Unfortunately, during Pluto’s bath, Mickey’s radio is knocked over and broken, switching stations at random. The genie, of course, follows the radio’s instructions.
Now, it’s 1940. Obviously, a man who played Pullman porters at least seven times was not going to be given the opportunity to play a dignified or intimidating genie. One of the websites I use for my research refers to the character as “an invisible genie with a Rochester voice,” which is frankly not wrong. Mitchell may not have actually been Eddie Anderson, but he’s clearly portraying the same sort of character. Because thanks, 1940. And if we never see the genie, we do get something of a black caricature when Pluto is painted while the genie paints the doghouse, because of course we do.
This is another one of those Disney shorts that feels as though they didn’t know how to end it. There are several of those. They’ve got a solid premise that kind of falls apart with a minute or two to go. So they grasp around for an ending, because they don’t have the Monty Python option of just segueing into something else. I’ve never read anything written about this, but it seems obvious to me. I can name several cartoons where it’s all a dream, several where it just kind of ends, and things like that. It’s happened before, and it will happen again.
This is one of those shorts that’s clearly just a bunch of gags strung together. Someone thought, “What if a genie built a doghouse?” and the short was off and running. And that’s fine; I don’t have a problem with “just a bunch of gags strung together.” Some of the funniest cartoons going don’t really have a plot. If the things like calling Mickey “boss” were toned down, this would be a more enjoyable cartoon, and there’s probably a reason it’s not on Disney+, but goodness knows there are more offensive cartoons out there.