German Circus Replaces Animal Cruelty With Holographic Magic
A German circus named Circus Roncalli has replaced their animal acts with 3-D holograms. This high-tech work of art takes 11 projectors to pull off and provides a 360-degree spectacle for viewers.
Earlier this year, the U.K. passed a law banning the use of wild animals in circuses, joining over 40 other countries that have implemented similar restrictions. The U.S. also just passed a law making animal cruelty a federal crime.
Circus Roncalli has been moving away from live animal acts since the 1990s. While they were working to stay ahead of the curve, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey took a nosedive in terms of attendance. Exhausted by lawsuits from animal activist groups like PETA, these big-name performances called it quits in 2017 after nearly 150 years in the business.
Ringling blamed their downfall on the current cultural shift towards environmental awareness. Circus Roncalli saw it as an opportunity. Now, they’re bigger than ever.
"As a circus, you have to be open-minded for everything especially for the feelings of the audience,” said Founder Bernhard Paul. “The audience is our boss."
The idea came in 2016, when Paul felt a desire to show animals in a “poetic and modern way.” He first experimented with an animal puppet show in Spain, but then he saw Justin Timberlake perform with the late Prince’s hologram at the Super Bowl halftime show. He was inspired by the possibilities that technology could provide. In March of 2018, he launched the new show, which took 15 designers and software engineers to produce. They’ve been touring ever since.
But is it as entertaining as the circuses of centuries past? Many argue that it’s better. For one, the animals are no longer bound by the laws of physics. Now, audiences stare in awe as elephants and horses leap in and out of existence, and giant goldfishes swim through the air above the ring.
The show is more entertaining than ever, presenting never-before-seen acts, and no animals are harmed in the making. It’s better for animals and viewers alike, but it’s also better for Paul’s bottom line. A couple of years ago, when he was still using some animals, transporting the whole troupe to the next venue cost somewhere close to $100,000.
In the beginning, Circus Roncalli wasn’t about the animals. It showcased clowns, poets, and acrobats. Paul was eager to move away from animal cruelty and get back into the business of bewilderment.
Circuses are meant to induce childlike wonder, not the anguish kids feel when they realize animals are tortured for their entertainment.
This evolution in entertainment is crucial during a time when many wild animals traditionally used circuses are facing extinction.