Harry Shearer Leaving ‘The Simpsons’

UPDATED: The Simpsons” has lost one of its most recognizable voices. Harry Shearer, who voices Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders and Principal Skinner, is leaving Fox’s animated series after 26 seasons.

He tweeted the news on Wednesday night.

“This because I wanted what we’ve always had: the freedom to do other work,” he wrote.

His message suggested that his departure was over a contract dispute. Shearer wrote that the lawyer for “Simpsons” producer James L. Brooks’ delivered the news: “‘Harry will not be part of it, wish him the best.'”

“Simpsons” exec producers Matt Groening, Al Jean and Brooks confirmed the news, releasing a statement that read “Harry Shearer was offered the same deal the rest of the cast accepted, and passed. The show will go on and we wish him well. Maggie took it hard.”

They added that the show will recast characters like Burns and Flanders “with the finest voiceover talent available” rather than killing them off.

Fox recently renewed the venerable series for two more seasons through 2017.

Brooks made a public appeal to keep negotiations going on Twitter on Thursday. “Hey, we tried. We’re still trying. Harry, no kidding, let’s talk,” he wrote.

The rest of the “Simpsons” voice cast recently signed two-year extensions, logging on for seasons 27 and 28. Production on season 27 has already begun without Shearer.

The show has survived contract issues before, although without losing its cast members. In 2011, 20th Century Fox Television looked to cut costs of the aging show by dealing a hefty pay cut to the voice cast. The cast did eventually agree to the cut after tense negotiations, though the salary reduction was not as steep as the studio originally proposed.

The season 26 finale of “The Simpsons” will air Sunday on Fox.

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