In Germany, during performances of Circus Roncalli, an elephant is seen standing in front of the audience with its trunk and ears wagging. The elephant lifts its hind legs while the audience applauds. It then disappears.
Like the other animals in Circus Roncalli’s show, the elephant is a 3-D hologram. This was done to maintain the historic feel of the circus while removing any concerns about animal cruelty.
According to the German newspaper Rheinische Post, Circus Roncalli began in 1976. Animal performances were phased out in the 1990s. The show no more extended features live animals. Instead, it uses holographic projections visible from all angles to the spectators. According to BBC, it takes 11 projectors to accomplish the feat.
Some holographic performances are based on traditional circus acts, such as the elephant performing and the ethereal horse ring that gallops on the big top. Some shows are unbelievable. Circus-goers in the past would never have seen a giant goldfish floating around the big top.
Circuses, once a staple of entertainment for the masses, have struggled in recent years. The decline of circuses is due to various factors, such as the rise of other media, like movies and games that compete for young audiences and the cost of transporting performers and animals on trains. In 2016, when Circus Roncalli used animals, a single journey could cost almost $90,000, according to the business newspaper Handelsblatt.
Reports about horrifying animal abuse contributed to damaging the circus’s reputation. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, spent years in the United States using the Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Bailey Circus and launching campaigns. Ringling announced in 2015 that it would phase out its elephants. Citing a “mood change” among consumers, this decision only resulted in a further drop in ticket sales. They protested against using other animals, including lions, horses, tigers, and kangaroos. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey closed in 2017 after a 146-year run.
According to the animal welfare organization Four Paws, today, seven American States and 149 towns, cities, and counties have restricted the use of wild animals in circuses. New Jersey, Hawaii, and other states have banned animal circus acts.
Circus Roncalli proved that this concern for treating animals does not mean they must be absent from the circus tent. The show can continue with a bit of technology.