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The Simpsons loses the voice of Ned Flanders, Mr. Burns, and Principal Skinner as Harry Shearer quits

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Harry Shearer, the voice of Ned Flanders, Mr. Burns, Principal Skinner, Otto, Smithers, and many more on The Simpsons, has apparently left the show. Shearer used Twitter to indicate that he wouldn't be returning in upcoming seasons of the long, long-running cartoon, suggesting that his desire to work on other projects was the reason for the decision. The actor quoted Simpsons writer and producer James L. Brooks' lawyer, who reportedly said that while the "show will go on, Harry will not be part of it."

Seasons 27 and 28 of The Simpsons are due to enter production soon, but earlier this week, it was reported that Shearer was delaying the process by holding out on signing his contract. It's not yet clear exactly why the show has parted ways with the actor — while Shearer says he wanted "the freedom to do other work," Simpsons voices have always appeared in other shows, movies, and projects. TMZ claims the move may have something to do with merchandising payments, but one thing's for sure: with his departure, The Simpsons loses the voice behind some of its biggest, best, and most memorable characters. After a 26-year run, and stripped of one of its greatest voices, maybe it's time to put the poor thing down.

Read next: The 12 most iconic characters Harry Shearer voiced on The Simpsons

Update May 14th, 10:40AM ET: Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, and other major Harry Shearer characters will be recast, according to showrunner Al Jean.

Verge Video archive: The life of a voice actor as explained by Archer, Coach Mcguirk and Bob Belcher (2013)