The 'Ice Ice Baby' rapper's '90s jam gets a loving homage in 'TMNT: Mutant Mayhem' thanks to producer Seth Rogen.
Following the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ first trip to the big screen, the comic book heroes turned cartoon TV stars were joined by another early ‘90s fixture, Vanilla Ice, for their sequel, The Secret of the Ooze.
When the rapper spoke with ET in 1991, he shared his excitement for "Ninja Rap," a now-cult favorite song he co-wrote and performed on-screen in the nightclub backdrop of the core four’s climactic fight scenes.
The "Ice Ice Baby" rapper, whose real name is Robert Matthew Van Winkle, was enlisted to build out a more kid-friendly cinematic outing than its gritty predecessor. As Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael and Leonardo explored the “M" aspect of their acronym, producers leaned into laughs and dialed back the violence this time around (the film infamously didn't portray the turtles using their signature weapons, following concerns and criticism from parent advocacy groups at the time).
With that in mind, enter Vanilla Ice, who told ET that "Ninja Rap" and the movie's choreographed dance had gone over well with the filmmakers. "The lyrics are great. I mean, it fits the movie perfect. Everybody loved it," he recalled.
When he was approached about appearing on film and onstage next to the half-shell heroes, he remembered, "I told them I don't have any acting skills. And they said, 'Just be yourself.' I was like, 'OK.'" (According to the credits, he technically plays himself.)
In fact, Ice claimed his star was rising so fast that producers initially pitched a larger role in the film that his schedule ultimately didn’t allow. "Actually, they wanted me to do more of the movie than I did," he recalled. "I was supposed to do some acting in the movie, but I was on tour with MC Hammer at the time and I had eight days total to do this."
As Ice figured, "Ninja Rap" and his collaboration with the turtles also made sense considering their demographic crossover.
"The kids buy. The kids love it. Kids are the ones who buy my records," he explained. "Kids are the ones who go see the movie. It's huge. There's no doubt about that. People over 25 don't buy records."
When asked if he had a favorite Ninja Turtle character, Ice didn’t hesitate when he named Raphael. Why? Well…
"I like his attitude," he laughed.
Over 30 years later, "Ninja Rap" remains an earworm for a generation who grew up in the time of the martial arts quartet’s pop culture heyday, which includes Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem producer Seth Rogen. Inside a TMNT creative brain trust, the Platonic actor, alongside his longtime co-writer, Evan Goldberg, and the movie's director, Jeff Rowe, is helping shepherd a sequel and another animated series for Paramount+.
As Rowe explained to Screen Rant, fans have Rogen to thank for the movie's loving nod to "Ninja Rap" and the song's inclusion on Mutant Mayhem's soundtrack.
"I wish it was my personal touch, but the use of 'Ninja Rap' is very funny and excellent," he told the outlet. "That was the thing that — we just had some piece of easy listening music in there for a very long time, and we're like, 'It's kind of funny.' Then, at one in the morning one night, Seth texts me, and he's like, 'It should be 'Ninja Rap.'' And I'm like, 'Yes, that's perfect. Oh my God, that's the best idea, I wish I thought of it.' It's so good though."
Rogen expanded on his longtime devotion to the turtles with ET, reflecting on when he was one of many kids who got caught up in the franchise’s headline-making toy craze in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
"I was really the target audience for the first iteration of all this stuff," he explained. "My dad bought like a big box of used Ninja Turtle toys at a garage sale when I was a kid, and so I had those and I played with them so much."
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze streams on Paramount+. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is in theaters now.