The theme and title sequence to Fresh Prince of Bel-Air quickly became an iconic part of the show. However, when you watch it in the context of the show's later success it's painfully obvious that it was almost certainly shot on a shoestring budget for the pilot episode. Several of the shots consist of cheap graffitied backdrops and stand-in extras. Many of the details contradict plot points from the finished show.

For instance, Will's mother in the intro...

Prince Mum 1

...looks completely different to his mother in the show...

Prince Mum 2

Have the show's producers ever talked about this? Did they want to keep the original title sequence for consistency or because they thought the cheap production values were endearing - or for some other reason?

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    Considering she was wearing glasses and a shower cap, as well as the Fish Eye perspective, in the top pic, I can't honestly say they're definitely different people. Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 14:42
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    Vivian Banks was Will's aunt (who was, somewhat ironically for this question, played by two different actresses during the course of the show), however, the character pictured above and asked about specifically here is Viola Smith, Will's (in-show) mother.
    – Steve-O
    Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 14:42
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    Also, I think one can easily chuck it up to Will's interpretation of his life (that he tends to take light and has learn responsibility), as opposed to stark realism. As a sitcom, I think the cheaper-looking effects play to the shows lighter comedy. Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 16:22
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    The real question is, Did he actually take a cab all the way from Philly to Bel-Air?
    – istrasci
    Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 22:12
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    @istrasci You can see the Hollywood sign in the background when he gets in the cab :) The extended version has a scene with him on the plane (in first class, no less!) from Philly to Bel-Air.
    – chepner
    Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 23:19

2 Answers 2


As explained in this deliciously in-depth article:

“When it was time to shoot the main title, we went with the people behind the video of ‘Parents,’” says Andy Borowitz. Scott Kalvert came in with a treatment that deliberately stayed in line with what had inspired the show. “The idea was ‘Parents Just Don’t Understand,’ ‘Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble’ and ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ were all somewhat the same song and video,” says Townes, who appears in the video as one of Smith’s basketball buddies. “We basically took our experience of making records and videos and turned it into the intro of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”

Note that this doesn't mean they used the same actress:

According to Townes, there’s also another casting rumor to clear up. Apparently, the mom in the “Parents Just Don’t Understand“ video and the “Fresh Prince” intro are not the same person, despite claims.


It was shot as a humorous music/rap video, much like the ones DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince were already famous for, with very similar styles and editing.

It was never intended to be some sort of continuity-pure reference to events in the show.

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    Good point. I'd never seen any of their rap videos before. I think that the mum might actually be from Parents Just Don't Understand. I've given your answer an upvote but it doesn't technically answer the question. Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 18:09
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    @TheDarkLord - "Did they want to keep the original title sequence .... for some other reason?" - This directly answers why it is as it is and why they would keep it. Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 18:52

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