The news broke just last night that Harry Shearer, who was responsible for several characters’ voices on The Simpsons, will be leaving the show. What’s next?
When speaking to the New York Times and The Esquire, showrunner Al Jean said that characters Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders and others will be recast. He added that the characters will not be killed off. Instead, they will be replaced by the “finest voice over talent available.”
In 26 seasons, few characters have died (excluding the Treehouse of Horror episodes), according to the Verge. However, characters such as Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure were retired after actor Phil Hartman passed away.
It is likely that some of Shearer’s characters will fade from Springfield. Besides Mr. Burns and Ned Flanders, Shearer was responsible for the voice of Principal Skinner, Waylon Smithers, Dr. Hibbert, Otto, Kent Brockman and the Rev. Lovejoy. Most of these characters will probably remain on the scene with a slightly different tenor.
So why did Shearer quit, anyway? He tweeted that his disputes with the producers centered around his desire to continue to do work outside of the show. He said that in the last four years, he has starred on the London stage and in a UK TV series and he’s “not stopping.”
Jean said that they “wish him well.” He also said that Shearer was offered the same deal as the rest of the cast, but he turned the offer down.
According to CNNMoney, Shearer is walking away from a LOT of money. He was reportedly offered $14 million for two years of work. The deal did not confine him to the show; he was allowed to do outside work as well.
Shearer was a very beloved member of the cast. As news leaked online of Shearers leave, fans tweeted in hopes that the news was a just a rumor. Shearer simply responded with “Thanks, Simpsons fans, for your support.”
This is not the first time voice actors have disputed with 20th Century Fox Studios. A pay dispute in 2011 left Shearer and others with a 30% pay decrease, according to LA Times. They were still some of the best paid TV actors, though, and earned $300,000 per episode.
Shearer is not the first actor to leave suddenly from a major cartoon either. Voice of Chef on South Park Issac Hayes quit the series abruptly in 2006.
The Simpsons is the longest-lasting prime-time TV series. The parent of Fox has received more than $1 billion in profits from the show.
It will be interesting to see how Jean and the others will deal with Shearer quitting as well as who will be replacing Shearer. Whoever is chosen has big shoes to fill. Shearer was literally half of Springfield.