Harry Shearer, 71, is leaving "The Simpsons." Here, he arrives at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on Feb. 10, 2008. Reuters

How will Fox animated series “The Simpsons” survive without Springfield’s richest billionaire Mr. Burns and annoying but kind-hearted neighbor Ned Flanders? The man behind those beloved characters, voice actor Harry Shearer, tweeted on Thursday that he will be leaving the show after 26 seasons.

Shearer, who earned his first Primetime Emmy for his work on “The Simpsons” in 2014, is the voice behind several minor characters on the comedic series as well as more than a dozen major Springfield characters, including Principal Skinner, news anchor Kent Brockman, Mr. Burns, assistant Waylon Smithers, Reverend Lovejoy, physician Dr. Hibbert, Lenny Leonard, bus driver Otto Mann, actor Rainier Wolfcastle, psychologist Dr. Marvin Monroe, alien Kang, Jasper Beardy and many more.

The actor suggested on Thursday that his departure may have been linked to a disagreement over his contract with the show. He told fans that his leaving came “because I wanted what we’ve always had: the freedom to do other work.” Shearer’s tweets also revealed that he had received the news the show would go on without him from the attorney of the show's executive producer James L. Brooks. He then thanked his fans for their support.

"The Simpsons" producer Al Jean said Shearer was offered the same deal as the rest of the series' cast. He ultimately turned the deal down.

"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. We do not plan to kill off characters like Burns and Flanders but will recast with the finest voiceover talent available," Jean said in a statement to the New York Times on Thursday.

Shearer joined the cast of “The Simpsons” during its first season in 1989. Until 1998, the actor was paid $30,000 per episode. He was then paid $125,000 per episode until 2004, when the show’s actors demanded $360,000 per show, and Shearer was given $250,000 per episode. In recent years, Shearer reportedly pulled in $300,000 per episode. Still, he's expressed dissatisfaction at his salary in the past.

“What I can say is that it’s possible to make a very nice living and still get totally screwed,” Shearer told the Irish Examiner as reported by the New York Post in August 2004.

The 71-year-old has been criticizing the show’s declining quality for years. More than a decade ago, he said in an interview with the New York Post he’d “rather not be there.” He also complained that his characters no longer played major roles in the series.

“They used to have whole scenes,” he explained. “Season 4 looks very good to me now. Fortunately, I’m doing a lot of other things.”

Fox renewed "The Simpsons" for two more seasons on May 4, according to a press release from Fox. It is the longest-running scripted show in television history.