Labor dispute quiets ‘Los Simpson’

Special to The Times

Humberto Velez, the Spanish-language voice of Homer Simpson, said adios last week to a role that has brought him much happiness, if little money, over the last 15 years. The announcement came as the Mexican cast of “The Simpsons” remains locked in a protracted labor dispute.

The National Actors Assn. (ANDA) -- whose members include five lead actors who provide Spanish voices for Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Mr. Burns -- has accused dubbing company Grabaciones y Doblajes Internacionales of changing its name and its principal owners in order to get out of a contractual requirement to hire exclusively ANDA actors. Doing so would be a violation of Mexican law.

Velez says his decision to quit voicing “Homero” came after months of protest, which left no time to work on other projects and forced him to borrow money for rent and food.


He also cited the refusal by 20th Century Fox Television, which produces the show in the U.S., to comment on the strike.

“I understand the series has made millions and millions of dollars

Magdalena Cuesta, director of Grabaciones y Doblajes Internacionales, said her studio is a new company that has never signed a contract with ANDA. She said it will not agree to conditions that would bar independent actors from working at her company, which dubs audio for several television shows, movies and interactive games.

Velez, one of several union actors who work on “Los Simpson,” as it is known in Latin America, was paid about $60 per episode. That rate is not unusual for Mexican voice actors, says Cuesta. The pay in Venezuela and Argentina is even less.

“These are the market conditions in Mexico,” she said.

Cuesta added that her company is paid $1,200 to $1,500 for a dubbed half-hour program.

Raymundo Capetillo, labor secretary for ANDA, says that Grabaciones y Doblajes Internacionales is “doing maquila work for 20th Century Fox Television,” referring to maquiladoras, south-of-the-border factories that produce American brand name products cheaply.

He argued that the company’s chief motivation for hiring independent actors is to save money on union fees, a problem that could be eliminated if Fox, the owner of “The Simpsons,” paid more for each episode.

But Cuesta insisted that Fox has absolutely nothing to do with the labor dispute. “This is a legal problem between a company and an actors’ union, in which Fox cannot intervene,” she said. “It’s not that they’re not going to intervene; they can’t.”


One member of the U.S. “Simpsons” cast has spoken out in support of the striking actors. Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson in English, said she is shocked at how little the Mexican voice actors are paid. “It is unreal by any standard that an artist would be so devaluated for his contribution,” she said.

It is unclear whether the labor dispute will delay the show’s 16th season. It usually premieres in Latin America in July.

20th Century Fox could not be reached for comment.