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The new fight is just the latest in 25 years of a cast vs. Fox.
April 1987: The new Fox Broadcasting Co. introduces America to The Simpsons as a short “bumper” feature on The Tracey Ullman Show.
1988-89: When it came time to find a voice cast for the Simpsons series, Fox didn’t have to look far. The network asks performers on the Tracey Ullman shorts to audition, and most got the jobs that were available. They included Harry Shearer, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith and Dan Castellaneta.
Dec. 17, 1989: The Simpsons premieres on Fox and immediately becomes the young network’s highest-rated show. Each of the lead voice actors is paid $5,000 to $30,000 an episode, and 13 episodes are produced.
1998: The Simpsons is a ratings hit and award winner. The voice cast gets into its first serious dispute with Fox during a contract renegotiation. The actors — except Kavner and Cartwright, who had already cut their own deals — demand a share of licensing, merchandising and future TV syndication revenue. Fox threatens to replace them and goes so far as to hire a casting director to find successors. Series creator Matt Groening supports the actors, and they are re-signed for about $50,000 an episode plus a $10,000-per-season raise for the next three years.
April 2001: Negotiations go more smoothly this time. The six principal voice actors agree to $100,000 an episode for the 13th and 14th seasons, rising to $125,000 an episode for the 15th. Each also gets a $1 million bonus in lieu of future syndication payments. Castellaneta (left), who voices Homer, and his wife Deb Lacusta also get a development deal with Fox.
2004: With their contracts having expired at the end of 2003 and DVD revenue and TV syndication raising the stakes, the actors again demand a raise. The cast goes on a kind of strike and stops going to script readings. It takes a month to settle, and they get a raise to between $250,000 and $360,000 an episode. But because of the dispute, Fox produces only 21 episodes for the 2004-05 season, one fewer than usual.
July 2007: The Simpsons Movie, featuring the key cast from the show, is released. It costs a reported $75 million to produce and grosses more than $527 million worldwide, becoming the eighth-biggest movie of the year. A sequel is discussed but is put on hold in 2009.
2008: Production again is suspended during contract renegotiations. The actors demand a substantial increase in pay, as much as $500,000 an episode. They finally settle and sign a deal that pays as much as $440,000 an episode. As part of his deal, Castellaneta also becomes a writer and consulting producer on the series.
Oct. 7, 2011: Fox announces that it has renewed The Simpsons for two more years, which will take it though a primetime record 25th season on the air. The renewal follows a very bitter and public battle with the actors, who are forced to take reduced compensation to continue the show. The lead actors’ pay drops from $440,000 for each of 22 episodes a season to an estimated $300,000 an episode.
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