Simpsons stars strike for more 'D'oh!'
April 2, 2004 9:43 AM   Subscribe

Simpson stars strike for more 'D'oh!' The voices of the Simpsons are on strike for $360,000 an episode. Seems almost reasonable for such a pop culture phenomenon, but the voiceover work equates to one work day per episode.
posted by BurnedEve (44 comments total)
Was talking about this with my fiance last night and at first thought it was an April Fool's joke, but apparently they've been without a contract for several months now. When the work adds up to only one day per episode, $360,000 seems pretty excessive, but with the 16th season arguably being the last, it seems relatively low risk compared with the money lost and backlash the producers would undoubtedly face should they change the Simpson voices this late in the game. Anyone remember how f-ed up Maude and Mrs. Lovejoy sounded after the woman who voiced her left the show?
posted by BurnedEve at 9:50 AM on April 2, 2004

I don't find this unexpected. They aren't making nearly what they are worth. True, it's voice work and true, it's one day an episode, but look at the cast of Friends. They were making $1 Million per episode. And not nearly as funny (or talented) as the Simpons cast.

Heck, at least give Azaria a raise. He's astounding.

And let's not ignore the bales of money Fox is raking in due to this series.
posted by Dantien at 9:51 AM on April 2, 2004

It's so much more, to me, than just compensation for the episodes. If Fox can make a bundle off of merchandising, so should they.
posted by evening at 10:05 AM on April 2, 2004

If they strike, I think they should just use the guy who does the voices for the Quebecois version. Le d'oh!
posted by krunk at 10:10 AM on April 2, 2004

It has nothing to do with how long their workdays are. The voice talent has been instrumental in the success of this show, and continues to be as such. Without them, Fox doesn't rake in hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars per season. Their value is at least $360,000 per episode.
posted by glenwood at 10:20 AM on April 2, 2004

Or those Quizno's things!

Pay them the money. Yes, it's one day in the studio, but there is some preparation, and they can't run off and do a movie or another show - they have to be in that studio at the appointed date and time. It's like being on retainer. Plus, for some of them, this will be the only real paycheck they ever make - I bet they're thinking about life after the series, not wild evenings on the town or something. It's not outrageous.
posted by rainbaby at 10:21 AM on April 2, 2004

They shouldn't go on strike. They should just go in every day and do it really half-assed.
posted by vito90 at 10:21 AM on April 2, 2004

posted by xmutex at 10:35 AM on April 2, 2004

It's the American way!
posted by Songdog at 10:38 AM on April 2, 2004

Love the headline, even if it's a fairly obvious one....
posted by darren at 10:40 AM on April 2, 2004

True, it's voice work and true, it's one day an episode, but look at the cast of Friends. They were making $1 Million per episode. And not nearly as funny (or talented) as the Simpons cast.

Except that the cast of Friends, I'd imagine, brings in more viewers and better sponsors than The Simpsons. And, you know, they ACT.

That said, I agree that they deserve more money than they're making now.

As far as humor is concerned, blame the writers. The earlier episodes of Friends, Seinfeld, and even The Simpsons were much better written. The skits were far more humorous and included much less idiotic, football in the groin, humor.
posted by BlueTrain at 10:45 AM on April 2, 2004

As Uncle Grambo pointed out on whatevs today, the "D'oh" pun was all over the news yesterday. obvs.
posted by turaho at 10:47 AM on April 2, 2004

They should just go in every day and do it really half-assed.

Don't they do that already? Seriously though, I used to like the Simpsons and like some people noticed a definite unfunny change. Can someone point out where it happened or what happened? Maybe a deconstruction of the change? I know a lot of people who like the *new* Simpsons better, so I'm hesitant to call it bad but I liked the old school episodes where the plot wasn't developed after the second commerical break and there was less pop culture humor and quick gags.]

Though, on the other side... South Park, which I thoroughly enjoy now used to be more shock value and now the episodes actually have depth to them. Some episodes are hit and miss but others seem really, dare I say, intelligent?
posted by geoff. at 10:47 AM on April 2, 2004

I saw an interview with one of the actors today. She said that sometimes they do an episode in about half a day. The voice actors are one thing, the people who write that stuff are the ones who deserve the real reward.
posted by tomplus2 at 10:48 AM on April 2, 2004

Or those Quizno's things!

They're called the spongemonkeys, and before they fell for toasted goodness they expressed a simpler love for the moon.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:50 AM on April 2, 2004

for some of them, this will be the only real paycheck they ever make

Ha! Every one of these actors have had pretty steady work outside the Simpsons since the mid 1980s. Julie Kavner was on Rhoda, Hank Azaria is everywhere, Harry Shearer's resume goes back to the 1950s... oh, and Spinal Tap, don't forget. Dan Castellaneta, Nancy Cartwright, and Yeardley Smith do voice work for a handful of other cartoons. Every one of them has done some other TV series (as regulars or guest appearances), most have been in movies, some are branching out into directing and producing. There are more than a handful of awards on their mantles, too. None of them will hurt for work once Simpsons is off the air, trust me. All are highly talented and have a proven track record outside this one show.

That said, I still think they should get as much as they can. Voice work doesn't get the glamour of on-screen acting, but it is demanding work.

The writers, though, deserve the most money per episode, though. But I think writers deserve the biggest paycheque for anything they do.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 10:50 AM on April 2, 2004

Vito's comment made me laugh out loud, and so many wonderful Simpson's comments regarding work came to mind:

*gasp* "A cherry! Oh Mr. Homer, what could have happened to make you sink so low? At least you could have pointed a gun in my face...or better yet, inquire about my help wanted sign."

"Uhhh, Mr Smithers? I don't understand 2600 of my 2700 duties."
"Well, the van is leaving...which ONE is giving you the most trouble?"
"Ummmm, what should I do in case of fire?"
(looks around, sees Mr. Burns' office on fire) "Oh, just my luck!"

"Oh I'm no supervising technician; I'm just a technical supervisor who cared too much."

Okay, I'll stop now before I get too Simpson's rabid.


Ohhhhhh, alright, one more... does anyone remember the episode from (I believe) last season when Bart had "Angry Dad" turned into a sitcom and Dan Castallaneta (sp?) shows up for the reading? *wipes tear of laughter from my eye* Ahhhhh, priceless.
posted by BurnedEve at 10:53 AM on April 2, 2004

Except that the cast of Friends, I'd imagine, brings in more viewers and better sponsors than The Simpsons. And, you know, they ACT.

Well, the cast of Friends does something, lets not get carried away now and call it acting.
posted by a3matrix at 10:54 AM on April 2, 2004

The voice talent is a big part of what the show is. They should get some of the loot Fox is bringing in.

While watching the Simpsons in Mexico I found it strange that the English voice talent was listed in the credits, but no mention of the Spanish-language talent.

I wonder if the T&R fees the US voice talent gets for worldwide distribution include geographies where other voices are dubbed in. That would be sweet. Working 1/2 day a week for 13 weeks a year AND getting paid for other people's voices in other countries!
posted by birdherder at 11:05 AM on April 2, 2004

Fox is making buckets of cash on this show and the creative people who make it possible deserve the lion's share of that money. Of course they won't get anywhere near that. I don't have the numbers--post 'em if you got 'em--but I imagine that the voice talent and animators combined are taking a singe-digit percentage of the franchise's gross revenue. Power to the peeps, yo.
posted by squirrel at 11:11 AM on April 2, 2004

LOL @ vito90 and xmutex. Good stuff.

Give them the money. I'm sure the cast didn't expect to be on board for fifteen seasons of this one show, but if Fox demands it, they should pony up. Recasting the show would be blasphemy.

The show had definitely gone downhill in 1996-7. But I think the show has improved a lot in the last three years. Part of that credit should go to Dana Gould, one of my favourite comedians, who joined the production staff in 2000.
posted by Down10 at 11:14 AM on April 2, 2004

Can someone point out where it happened or what happened?
Frank Grimes.
posted by brownpau at 11:18 AM on April 2, 2004

Every one of these actors have had pretty steady work outside the Simpsons since the mid 1980s. Julie Kavner was on Rhoda...

Oh yeah, that 1974 cash cow is still chugging along! Cha-CHING!
posted by squirrel at 11:20 AM on April 2, 2004


I agree with a3matrix's comment about the veracity of the acting claim concerning the Friends cast. But do you really think voice actors, particularly Emmy award winners, don't act? I would expect it's harder to get across emotion using only your voice than do have your whole body involved.

Animation or not, you've got to admit that the Simpson's voice talent is just that. Talent!

Oh, and BurnedEve, never worry about getting rabid. There are far more rabid fans than you out there.

Here's my Simpsons quote on my cubicle wall:
"The only thing I'm high on is love. Love for my son and daughters. Yes, a little LSD is all I need." - Marge Simpson
posted by Dantien at 11:23 AM on April 2, 2004

Can someone point out where it happened or what happened?

Didn't they hire a head writer who proudly boasted that he had never seen an episode of The Simpsons before? Or did I imagine that?
posted by turaho at 11:29 AM on April 2, 2004

This brings to mind the goon on Everybody Loves Raymond demanding more money for his hard, hard work on what is among the worst shows in the history of television.

The voices of the Simpsons are making $125K per episode now, they want to triple that? I don't know, I'm caught between the rock and the hard place here. $125K for a day's work is far too much but what if Fox is making $125 million off that day's work?

And they do something on Friends but its not acting. I can't wait until that awful show is over and then all I'll have to deal with are syndicated reruns forever and ever and ever. Damn, I'm gonna go get drunk now.
posted by fenriq at 11:47 AM on April 2, 2004

*throws football at Blue Train's groin*

[nelson muntz]


posted by jonmc at 12:02 PM on April 2, 2004

turaho, I don't know if that's apocryphal, or just fictitious, but I'm sure that whenever they interviewed for writers, every candidate who said "I've seen every episode" would've reminded them too much of Comic Book Guy.

And, like every TV show today, there are no "staff writers" on The Simpsons, just Producers, Co-Executive Producers, Associate Producers, Consulting Producers, Co-Producers, and an occasional Story Editor (and the Head Writer gets Executive Producer credit, I believe, but not on the same screen as Groening, Brooks & Simon) That's how Writers get paid more than 10% of what they're worth...

and fenriq, I don't know where you live, but on the local stations here in L.A., we get twice-daily reruns of "Friends" , "Simpsons", "Raymond", "Will & Grace", "That 70s Show", "Seinfeld", "Frazier", "King of the Hill", "Married With Children" and "The Parkers"... ("Home Improvement", "Drew Carey", "Dharma & Greg" and "Sabrina" are down to once daily, thankfully) Can anybody lend me some money to get cable so I can see "MASH", "WKRP" or "Cheers"?
posted by wendell at 12:11 PM on April 2, 2004

$125K for a day's work is far too much but what if Fox is making $125 million off that day's work?

Would your answer change if Fox were making a billion dollars? And everybody else were making even more?
posted by jjg at 12:19 PM on April 2, 2004

it is not about the time they spend working on each episode but the "value" of their work... being a graphic designer and a photographer I can really appreciate their stance on this.

I can watch 20 different episodes today on satellite (some are even on multiple channels/times)

oh and by the way this is my very first post (just signed up today!!!!!!).... I have been reading mefi everyday for the last 2 years and have been waiting so very patiently to get in.... YAYYYAYAYAYAY! WWWWEWEEEE!
posted by diVersify at 12:24 PM on April 2, 2004

Someone close jonmc's Nelson tag, please!
posted by squirrel at 12:41 PM on April 2, 2004

posted by diVersify at 12:51 PM on April 2, 2004

I certainly don't begrudge them the money, but on the other hand, I'd love it if this crisis actually forced them to shut down the show for good. It still has its laugh-out-loud funny moments every week, so I still watch when I remember to check and see if Fox has deigned to show it this week, but the plots - Augggh, so pathetic, it's painful to sit through.

They've just simply done every. possible. storyline. that can be wrenched out of this combination of characters, and many of them (many of them) have now been done three times over. Making a throwaway joke about it within the episode doesn't absolve you, BTW. Time to give it a rest.

Oh yeah, and brownpau, you got that right.
posted by soyjoy at 1:17 PM on April 2, 2004

turaho and wendell: This story is true. You are referring to Ian Maxtone-Graham, a staff writer who said in a 1998 interview that he never watched the Simpsons before being hired. His elevation to head writer coinincides with the decline of the show's quality in the eyes of many, and as a result a good deal of criticism was written about him on the internet. Maxtone-Graham then made the classic rookie mistake of responding to the flamers, mocking them by proxy through the Comic Book Guy, who under his direction became a charicature of an internet fanboy. For instance, CBG began uttering lines such as "Worst Episode Ever," in reference to the multitude of such lists compiled on, many of which featured Maxtone-Graham episodes prominently. This, of course, only further enraged the Simpsons internet community, and the mutual dislike continues to this day.

All of this was culled from the definitive library for that community, the Springfield Nuclear Powerplant.

My first every Metafilter post. YAAA!!
posted by ChasFile at 1:22 PM on April 2, 2004

Welcome to the Big Leagues ChasFile and diVersify.
posted by Dantien at 1:32 PM on April 2, 2004

And, of course, I'd argue that the raise is more than due. The Simpsons has been the flagship show for Fox for well over a decade. It was their second first big hit (Married with Children of course being the first), and served to legitimize the network, which at the time was even trashier and low production-value than it is now. On top of that, it keeps the entire Sunday line-up afloat, attacting an audience for new shows, much as Friends has done on Thurdays. It could be argued, and perhaps convincingly, that one of the main reasons the X-Files became such a huge hit was that it was just Simpsons viewers leaving the TV on. And of course, there's the merchandising, which is everywhere, and the syndication, which is constant. And the DVDs, which are some of the most popular multi-disc sets ever. And the movie thats in the works. And and and....

So do the actors deserve $125k for 1 day's work? Probably not. But do they deserve a million or two for 15 years of doing all of the above? At the very least. I consider this back pay, and it's long overdue. The reason Maude was killed off in the series is that the actor voicing her made like $1,500 an episode, which wasn't enough to cover the plane ticket and hotel in LA to record. Absurd. Cough it up, Fox.
posted by ChasFile at 1:36 PM on April 2, 2004

This is exactly the same as how a sports star like a basketball player can ask for what most of us would consider an absolutely outrageous sum of money for a single season's work - $3 million, $4 million, $10 million. They want a piece of that very large pie which reflects their true value to the organization. The Simpsons is one of THE most popular TV series EVER, and makes Fox, as jjg points out above, something like a billion per year. $8 million per actor per season is a pitifully tiny fraction of what the series rakes in. They definitely deserve it, and have for a looong time.

(my first post too)
posted by zoogleplex at 2:00 PM on April 2, 2004

Still, the real cash comes from syndicated episodes, which broke a traditional once-a-day mold for syndicated shows and are regularly seen two or even three times a day in major markets. It has quickly ensconsed itself on syndication A-lists with “Friends” and “Seinfeld,” though they often can’t deliver quite as broad a demographic range; its syndication revenue is estimated to be as large as $1 billion, with Fox capturing perhaps 10-15 percent.

“That’s where they make most of their money,” says Wayne Friedman, contributing editor for Television Week magazine. “It’s like printing money, basically.”

A BILLION dollars!

Today is my first post too!
posted by mecran01 at 3:05 PM on April 2, 2004

And just think, once the show finally goes off the air, that syndication cash will keep on pouring in seson after season. And what will Julie kavner be doing then, Rhoda 2: Electric Boogaloo?
posted by squirrel at 4:32 PM on April 2, 2004

It's my opinion that some people should be paid whatever makes them happy so long as they keep working. Some people's work is that good. The people that make the Simpsons (all of them, voice acting is acting too) are some of those people.

It still has its laugh-out-loud funny moments every week

Every week. How much is that worth?

Oh, and hi to all the other newbies. It's the coming-out thread, yay!
posted by Miles Long at 5:53 PM on April 2, 2004

It is greatly amusing watching the Simpsons dubbed into Korean. That is all.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:44 PM on April 2, 2004

Simpsons, like SNL, suffered when they switched head writers.

In 1998 (Season 9), Matt Groening left the Simpsons to focus on Futurama. Mike Scully, one of the writers, became executive producer. Instead of focusing on their edgy comedy and wit, they relied heavily on guest stars and wackiness that just didn't translate as comedy.

After the show became less and funny, Mike Scully was replaced by the now incumbent Al Jean, who seems to have improved the show a bit but has not had much success in restoring the true comedic glory of seasons 5,6,7, and 8.

If you would like to see the dramatic juxtaposition in the change of management, watch an episode in season 7 or 8 versus late season 9 and early season 10. Granted, not all the episodes were crap, but the ratio of crap:good episodes leaned heavily toward crap after 1999.

Now that Futurama is cancelled (which was an injustice in itself), I hope Matt Groening comes back and breathes/slaps some sense into the writing and producing staff.
posted by superchicken at 11:05 PM on April 2, 2004

oh how I miss Futurama... Stupid FOX.
posted by dawiz at 5:54 PM on April 3, 2004 [1 favorite]

Oh, and hi to all the other newbies. It's the coming-out thread, yay!

Welcome all. Just watch out for those wolves in newbie clothing!

Oh, and don't even get me started on Stuporama. When I saw the first episode, I thought Bender was the funniest thing to happen to TV in 20 years - I was astonished that they had turned him into The Fonz by the third episode, and... hey! Didn't I tell you not to get me started???
posted by soyjoy at 9:19 AM on April 5, 2004

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