The Roncalli Circus in Germany has been in business since 1976. Bernhard Paul, the founder, spent all his savings – and more – to bring his dream to life by bringing in trapeze artists, acrobats, clowns and animals from across the globe to be a part of a circus spectacle. By Bayar Jain
However, as the years went by, he started seeing a decline in numbers. People seemed to lose interest in this art, specifically with respect to animal display. With animal sensitivity on the rise, audiences started ditching live flesh and blood performances of these creatures. To salvage the death of the circus and declining sales, the Roncalli group turned to technology.
Partnering with Bluebox, the Roncalli circus installed Optoma projectors to create holographic projections of animals. Animations made by a computer aim to make these holographs as realistic as possible. To add to the magnanimity of the spectacle, each holographic projection offers a 360-degree view of the animals. Eleven projectors ensure the prancing horses, fierce lions, and gigantic elephants are visible from each seat of the circus arena. While some of the acts like galloping horses are meant to replicate a traditional circus, more fantastical acts like flying fish have been added to the mix. The show, however, also includes trapeze artists, clowns, acrobats, magicians and the like.
The inclusion of animals in circuses has been a debated topic for years. Coupled with the rise of other forms of media such as movies, and video games, circuses were soon turning into a ‘dying art.’ Reports of animal cruelty further added to their damaged reputation. In United Kingdom, for example, a bill to ban travelling circuses which use animals in their performances is underway. Currently, a twenty-year ban on using exotic animals in circuses exists in Australia. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), too, has repeatedly targeted circus groups with lawsuits, campaigns, and protests. In fact, this worldwide mindset change instigated the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus to shut down after its 146 year run in 2017.
While Roncalli Circus has embraced technology for a cruelty-free experience, here’s hoping other countries follow suit. After all, the show must go on!