UPDATE (2:22 PM EST): 20th Century Fox TV released a statement about the negotiations, sounding a bit dire.
23 seasons in, The Simpsons is as creatively vibrant as ever and beloved by millions around the world. We believe this brilliant series can and should continue, but we cannot produce future seasons under its current financial model. We are hopeful that we can reach an agreement with the voice cast that allows The Simpsons to go on entertaining audiences with original episodes for many years to come.
PREVIOUSLY: Despite Homer Simpson's best efforts, it may not be a nuclear meltdown that brings about Springfield's doom. Instead, its end may come thanks to the business of Hollywood that the show has lampooned for so long.
According to a new report from The Daily Beast, the show's voice actors are locked in a bitter contract negotiation with 20th Century Fox, with the studio threatening to end production if the talent does not take a 45% pay cut. The actors are countering with an agreement that nets them a 30% reduction in salary but a small slice of the show's back-end earnings, which include the billion dollar syndication and merchandising empire that the studio has built over the past two plus decades.
At the moment, the Daily Beast reports, the show's voice actors -- Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith (Lisa), Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer -- earn about $8 million a year, but do not get a cut of the show's much bigger ancillary profits.
The stars re-upped their contracts in 2008, receiving significant raises; it was reported that they went from $360,000 to $500,000 an episode.
Most of the actors, who each play a number of characters, have other gigs; Azaria, who voices Apu and Chief Wiggums, leads the way with his own NBC sitcom, "Free Agents," though the new show is already in danger of being cancelled thanks to low ratings. He also played a part in this fall's hit film, "Contagion" and starred in this summer's big hit, "The Smurfs."
Castellaneta, the voice of Homer, has had a recurring role in ABC Family's "Greek." Nancy Cartwright, Bart Simpson's voice, also did voices for "Rugrats" and the shows "The Replacements" and "Betsy's Kindergarten Adventures." Harry Shearer has also starred in Christopher Guest's mockumentaries.