'Simpsons' voice actors reach deal

Top actors will get nearly $400,000 per episode

The standoff between "The Simpsons" voice cast and series producer 20th Century Fox TV is over.

After months of negotiations, the cast of Fox's long-running animated series reached a new four-year deal with the studio during the weekend.

Under the pact, the top actors will be paid nearly $400,000 per episode. While this is lower than the reported $500,000 the cast originally sought, it remains a significant increase from their current paychecks of about $300,000 an episode.

Additionally, Dan Castellaneta, who voices Homer Simpson and has penned several "Simpsons" episodes over the years, is being named a consulting producer.

Castellaneta and most of the other key "Simpsons" voice players -- Julie Kavner (Marge), Nancy Cartwright (Bart), Yeardley Smith (Lisa) and Hank Azaria (Moe) -- are slated to begin work on the upcoming 20th season today with a table read.

As of Monday, the status of Harry Shearer, who voices Mr. Burns and Ned Flanders, among other characters, was unclear. Because of a last-minute snag, his deal did not close with the other cast members', and it was not clear if he would show up for today's table read.

As a result from the drawn-out contract negotiations, the upcoming season of "The Simpsons" has been reduced from 22 to 20 episodes. While the deal makes the voice cast available for four more seasons, Fox has yet to order the animated comedy beyond season No. 20.

The "Simpsons" cast and 20th TV have been down this road before. Most recently in 2004, the actors held up production of the 16th season by skipping two table reads during the renegotiations that ultimately resulted in the cast members more than doubling their previous salary.