Harry Shearer, the voice actor behind the characters of Ned Flanders, Mr. Burns, Principal Skinner, Otto, Smithers and many others on "The Simpsons," announced his departure from the show on Thursday. Shearer made the news public in a set of tweets.
Quoting a lawyer for Executive Producer James L. Brooks, he tweeted: “Show will go on, Harry will not be part of it.”
“This [is] because I wanted what we've always had: the freedom to do other work,” he said in another tweet.
He also thanked his fans, saying: “Thanks, Simpsons fans, for your support.”
His fans pondered about the show's future without the iconic voice of several major characters.
— The Daily Rupert (@TheMurdochTimes) May 14, 2015
That's fine, the show can go on without Ned Flanders, Mr Burns, Smithers, Principal Skinner, Kent Brockman, Reverend Lovejoy, Otto, Dr Hiber
— Ben Jenkins (@bencjenkins) May 14, 2015
I mean, the Simpsons is past its prime, way past. But this would mean it's dead and gone.
— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) May 14, 2015
Seasons 27 and 28 of the show had been scheduled early this month, but Shearer reportedly held off on signing the contract, delaying the production. Fox had announced at the time that it plans to continue the show for at least two more years, bringing it up to a total of 28 years on air with 625 episodes.
His delay in re-signing the contract was reportedly due to disagreements over back-end and merchandizing, a major source of profit for a high-profile show like "The Simpsons."
Last week, Shearer also criticized Fox for failing to credit the voice actors behind the show, asking: “Doesn't this show have a cast?”
In 2011, Fox announced major pay cuts for its voice cast on the long-running show; the agreement was reached after tense negotiations. The reduction in pay was, however, reportedly less severe than the studio's original proposal. During the negotiations, Shearer had said he would be willing to take a much heavier pay cut if he could have a small share of the production’s profits, which the producers refused.
The Season 26 finale of "The Simpsons" is set to air on Sunday.