Roncalli Circus

Over the years I've written a number of blogs focued on the topic of circuses retiring animal acts. From posts such at the 'When The Elephant In The Room Is No Longer In The Circus.' to 'Circus Elephants Retiring in Denmark,' I've blogged circus administrators listening to the will of the people wanting a ban on elephants, tigers and bears being used for entertainment purposes. There have even been circuses closing down altogether. Who can't remember the curtain coming down on the Ringling and Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus?

So what's to replace those special childhood memories? What will take their place, so our children can revel equally in the magic and mystery of circuses of yore.

Germans have an answer . . .

One German big top thinks they have an answer. With a name very similar to mine: "Ron Callari" comes the "Circus Roncalli." Founded in1976, this circus has reinvented itself for modern-day audiences.

It fills an arena measuring 5 meters (16 feet) deep, and 32 meters (105 feet) wide, featuring 360° visibility for the spectators. According to the BBC, it takes 11 projectors to pull this feat off, resulting in spectacular 3D holograms of elephants, horses and even fish.

It's inception . . .

The idea came to the founder of Circus Roncalli, Bernhard Paul, after watching the NFL Super Bowl half-time show in 2018. During the performance, Justin Timberlake was seen performing alongside a hologram of the music legend Prince, who had passed away two years earlier.

After this stunning performance , Paul was determined to find a way to make the technique work for his German arena. After a lot of stops-and-go's, it took a crew of 15 designers and software engineers to create a spectacle unseen in other circuses around the world.

Animal Advocates

The decision not to use animals in his circus has been welcomed by many animal rights activists. Their major objections are based on the ill-treatment of performing animals that have to live in confinement and receive very little-down time pre-and-post performances.

In the U.S., activist groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) targeted the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus with campaigns and lawsuits, over the years. In 2015, Ringling decided to phase out its elephants, citing a “mood shift” among consumers, which only led to a further decline in ticket sales.

While some were disappointed to see the elephants go, others continued to protest the circus’ use of lions, tigers, horses, kangaroos and other animals.

Today  . . .

Today, seven American states and 149 cities, towns and counties have implemented restrictions on the use of wild animals in circuses, according to the animal welfare group Four Paws. Just last year, New Jersey and Hawaii enacted statewide bans on animal circus acts, and globally, more than 40 countries have placed restrictions or bans on animal performances in general.

However, while old-school circuses fade into our memories, the holographic replacements will bring new memories for our children and future generations. Thanks to circuses like Roncalli, the tradition goes on . . . just in a new and wondrous composition  . . . and something to new and revel in.


Primary Source: Smithsonian Magazine