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An ongoing contract dispute between the voice talent behind The Simpsons and 20th Century Fox TV has caused production delays on the show's upcoming 20th season and will most likely force the studio to produce fewer episodes this season.

Although Fox announced a fall schedule last week with its animated crown jewel in the normal timeslot, Variety reports that unresolved negotiations with key cast members Dan Castellaneta (Homer), Julie Kavner (Marge), Nancy Cartwright (Bart), Yeardley Smith (Lisa), Hank Azaria (Moe) and Harry Shearer (Mr. Burns) - who are hoping to increase their salaries from $360,000 an episode to around the $500,000 mark - have forced the studio to drop this season's episode count to 20.

Production halted in 2004 after the cast members didn't show up for two table reads in an effort to increase their salaries. Although the most recent negotiations haven't caused the same kind of "anger or frustration" as those four years ago, if a deal isn't reached soon, more episodes could be cut. - Adam Bryant