Veteran "Simpsons" actor Harry Shearer, who voiced such characters as Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, Mr. Smithers and Seymour Skinner, has left the long-running animated series over a contract dispute.
Shearer signaled his departure on Twitter late last night, sharing a comments from the lawyer of "Simpsons" co-creator James L. Brooks that, the "show will go on, Harry will not be part of it, wish him the best" The tweet confirmed an earlier report by TMZ that a "key actor" hasn't signed on for the recently announced 27th and 28th seasons.
Although CNNMoney initially indicated Shearer's departure might not be definite, the website has since received confirmation from showrunner Al Jean that the actor won't be returning.
"As 'The Simpsons continues' its 27th and 28th seasons, Harry Shearer will not be within the show," Jean said in an email. "We do not plan to 'kill off' his characters, but replace them with the most talented members of the voiceover community."
Shearer explained on Twitter that the dispute originated "because I wanted what we've always had," and added to CNNMoney that while he's been able to pursue side projects since the show began in 1989, the producers now won't budge.
Jean countered that Shearer was "offered the same deal as the rest of the cast, but turned it down."
This isn't the first time "The Simpsons" has been caught up in a contract dispute: In 2004, the main voice cast stopped showing up for script readings for about a month while the actors pushed for a salary increase. That was followed in 2011 by a threat from Fox to cancel the series if the cast didn't accept a 45 percent pay cut. An agreement was soon reached, however, leading to the renewal of "The Simpsons," with the actors reportedly to a smaller reduction of salaries.