How Bart and hapless Homer became overnight millionaires

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BART SIMPSON is a girl. And now he's a very well-paid girl. The cast of actors who do the voices for the hit cartoon comedy The Simpsons yesterday negotiated themselves new $50,000 (pounds 30,000) per episode salaries and a $1m bonus.

This included Nancy Cartwright, the woman who plays Bart, and who tried, as star of the show, to negotiate herself a separate deal from the rest of the cast.

The cast of largely unknown actors, Dan Castellaneta (Homer), Julie Kavner (Marge) and Yeardley Smith (Lisa) at the centre of the show also got guarantees that their episode fees will go up by $10,000 every year until 2000.

Fox Television, which makes the show, had been threatening to replace the entire cast after they originally asked for pounds 150,000 per episode and a share of the profits from selling the show on around the world.

After weeks of stalemate James L Brooks - creator of the show - had to step in to force the cast and network to come to a deal in time for a new series to be filmed.

The cast members had claimed that their original fees of $25,000 (pounds 15,000) an episode meant that they had been missing out on the bonanza from world- wide Simpsons merchandise and programme sales since the show started in 1989.

Fox is known to have taken a hard line in an effort to keep down the actors' fees across its schedule - the voices on King of the Hill, which is shown on Channel 4, get paid just $5,000 (pounds 3,000) an episode.

Inflation of actors' salaries has been a big issue for the American networks since it was revealed that NBC offered the comedian Jerry Seinfeld $100m to do more series of his eponymous sit-com.

Last year the rest of the Seinfeld cast rebelled and insisted on seeing their salaries rise. Seinfeld, along with with ER and Friends, produced an NBC schedule for Thursday nights which makes the network $200m a year in advertising.

In the United Kingdom The Simpsons cartoon is one of BBC2's highest rating shows - regularly getting 5 million viewers - and is also a centrepiece in the schedule of Fox's UK sister station BSkyB.

Although the cast of The Simpson is known only by the actors' voices the show has succeeded in attracting a stunning array of guest stars, including Elizabeth Taylor, the surviving Beatles Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, the entire cast of Cheers and Hollywood stars such as Danny de Vito and Dustin Hoffman.