How do I feel about THE SIMPSONS voice actors asking for pay raises from $125,000 per episode to $360,000 per episode (or from about $3 million to $8 million per year), as well as demanding a share of the show’s profits? Frankly I think as talented as they are, there is no voice actor, not even the venerable Mel Blanc, who deserves that amount of money. Bear in mind, the vocal cast on THE SIMPSONS only puts in 6-7 hours of work per episode, which amounts to less than one month of labor throughout the year.
On the other hand, there’s no denying that the six principal voice actors – Dan Castellaneta, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Julie Kavner, Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer – are the true stars of THE SIMPSONS. The animation and artwork are little more than a bland and formulaic stage for the writer’s precious one-liners and cloying pop culture references, which are somehow made more tolerable by the creative delivery of the vocal sextet. The show, which is still the second-highest rated program on Fox, earns the network $2.5 billion each year. And if this money doesn’t go to the voice actors, it also doesn’t benefit anybody else like the artists who toil on the show at Film Roman in North Hollywood or the animators who labor on it overseas. As Mark Evanier points out on his weblog, “The money the actors don’t get paid is money that the studio gets to keep…and even pay out in bonuses to people who have less to do with the show’s success than the actors.” Looking at it from that perspective, it seems that the voice actors are the lesser of two evils in this case, and more deserving of the money, although hardly the most deserving.
For more background on this dispute, here are articles from the NY TIMES and THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER which explain the situation. Also this article from USA TODAY talks about the practical implications of the strike for fans of the show, and that’s a shortened 16th season of THE SIMPSONS. What I’m curious about is whether any artists at Film Roman have had to be temporarily laid off because of the strike, or whether there were enough episodes already in the pipeline to keep the production running smoothly?