Al Jean says that The Simpsons actor Harry Shearer, who provides the voices for over 20 regular characters including Mr Burns, Ned Flanders and Seymour Skinner, is “not irreplaceable”.
So what happens when a voice actor has to be replaced, either because they have passed away or moved on? It’s not always possible to kill off a much-loved character, and more often than not they continue without viewers even spotting the different.
Here are just some of the examples of characters that didn’t lose their voice.
Walt Disney himself voiced his shy little mouse during Mickey’s first speaking roles, but in 1946 the role was handed over to voice actor and head of Disney’s sound effects department Jimmy MacDonald.
MacDonald voiced the character for over 30 years before he was replaced by Wayne Allwine in 1977. Allwine, who was married to Minnie Mouse voice actress Russi Taylor, voiced Mickey until his death in 2009, when the character was taken over by Bret Iwan.
But Mickey’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Disney characters. Ilene Woods performed the original Cinderella for example, but when a sequel was made in 2002 the role was given to video game and cartoon voiceover artist Jennifer Hale.
Muppets creator Jim Henson provided the voices for many of his own puppets, including Uncle Waldorf, Ernie, Rowlf the Dog – and of course Kermit the Frog.
When the pioneer puppeteer died in 1990, the job of voicing the little green frog fell to fellow puppeteer Steve Whitmire, who had already been performing as Rizzo the Rat.
Have a listen to the difference here.
Miss Piggy has also changed over the years, with principal performer Frank Oz handing over his role to Eric Jacobson in 2001.
Ever wondered what Fred and Wilma look like in real life?
Henry Corden was actually the second person to voice Fred Flintsone. The first regular actor to play the part was Alan Reed. Jeff Bergmann took over from Corden in 2001 – compare them all here.
But Fred isn’t the only Flintstone to flip through different voices: Betty Rubble has been performed by seven people in total over the years.
And Barney Rubble has been played by five actors over the various Flintsones films and TV shows – although the most memorable remains Mel Blanc, Looney Tunes and Hanna-Barbera legend and the “man of a thousand voices”. Watch this incredible interview with him and David Letterman.
Harry Shearer will be an incredible loss to The Simpsons if he chooses to leave, but it doesn’t mean Mr Burns has to become a mute.