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The Simpsons Folder

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Possible Last Simpsons Season
April 01st, 2004 at 06:29 PM EST


The voices of Homer, Bart and the rest of “The Simpsons” gang have been silenced by a pay dispute by actors on the animated US hit television series. Production on the 16th season of the show, which has become a global cultural touchstone, has been delayed by the row. Actors who lend their voices to the animated characters stayed home from work.

Industry bible Daily Variety reported that the cast has not shown up for rehearsals twice over the past few weeks after negotiations with the Fox television network to renew their lucrative contracts hit a road block.

The actors, including Dan Castellaneta who is the voice of the slob dad, Homer, Hank Azaria (Apu and Moe), Nancy Cartwright who plays the mischievous Bart and Julie Kavner, the long-suffering mom Marge, are demanding a whopping 174 per cent salary hike, Variety said.

Each cast member wants around $US360,000 ($A470,000) per episode, or $US8 million ($A10.5 million) for the 22-episode season.

That is up from the $US125,000 ($A163,400) per episode each they have earned for the past three years, Variety said.

Each episode reportedly takes between six and seven hours to record and cast salaries of $US360,000 ($A470,000) per show would rank the actors among the highest-paid sitcom stars in Hollywood.

“They already have the deal of a lifetime,” one executive was quoted by the daily as saying.

Twentieth Century Fox Television and James Brooks’ Gracie Films, which produces the show, were both unavailable for comment on the report.

The trade daily said the negotiations over salary for the 2004-2005 season of the globally-syndicated show have been going on for months but that the two sides had failed to narrow their differences.

In 1998, the show was struck by a similar work stoppage when the cast threatened to walk off unless their salaries were dramatically increased from their then level of $US30,000 ($A39,000) per episode.

The television network had begun a search for replacement voices for the famous characters when a deal was worked out.

The actors are reportedly arguing that their salary demands represent only a small share of the global “Simpsons” business, which is worth around one billion dollars.

It was unclear whether a planned “Simpsons” feature film in development formed part of the salary squabble.