Voice actors get salary bump

“The Simpsons” cast has sealed a four-year deal that hands it more “D’oh” and solidifies the animated hit’s 20th season.

Production on the show has been delayed for several months as voice actors and 20th Century Fox TV hammered out a deal (Daily Variety, May 20). New pact bumps the stars’ salaries up to about $400,000 an episode; the thesps previously made somewhere in the mid-$300,000 range.

Deal, firmed up over the weekend, means most of the key “Simpsons” cast members — Dan Castellaneta (Homer), Julie Kavner (Marge), Nancy Cartwright (Bart), Yeardley Smith (Lisa), Hank Azaria (Moe) and Harry Shearer (Mr. Burns) — will be back to work and attending the show’s first table read of the season this morning.

Shearer is still working out elements of his deal, but a firm pact is expected shortly.

As part of his deal, Castellaneta has been named consulting producer on the series. He’ll now serve as a writer in addition to continuing as a voice performer.

Although the voice actors are now locked through the next four years, it doesn’t necessarily mean “The Simpsons” will be back beyond season 20. Gracie Films’ deal with 20th expires at the end of this season, and Fox hasn’t renewed the show beyond this upcoming year.

Because of the late start, 20th will produce just 20 episodes of “The Simpsons” this season instead of the usual 22.

Despite the lengthy negotiations, both sides said this go-round wasn’t characterized by the rancor that marked past faceoffs. Production was delayed in 2004 when the cast didn’t show up to table reads; in 1998, 20th hired casting directors to find potential replacements when the thesps asked for a pay raise.

The voice actors have traditionally argued that their asking price is relatively small given the billions of dollars “The Simpsons” has poured into News Corp.’s coffers. Studio execs, on the other hand, note that “The Simpsons” audience has eroded, making it less of a cash cow.

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