The German circus, Roncalli, which has existed since 1976, has done something incredible – they have traded horses, lions and elephants for holograms. And the show is still as spectacular as ever. Circus Roncalli decided to make this drastic change to support the fight against animal abuse in the circus industry.
There are still tusks, tails and a series of acrobats and burning hoops to admire in the shows, but Circus Roncalli is the first circus in the world to use projected animals. Modern laser projectors create beautiful holographic 3D images that fill an arena 32 meters wide and 5 meters deep. The audience can enjoy a spectacular 360° view.
Bernhard Paul, founder and director of Roncalli, explains in this interview how this world-first idea came about.
Horses and dogs were part of your shows for years. Don’t you miss them?
Times change and so do opinions. The transport of animals on busy, full roads is no longer necessary. In 2016, the desire arose to show circus animals to the public in a modern, poetic way.
Why did you decide to stop using real animals?
Roncalli’s focus from the beginning was on the clowns, acrobats and musical acts. For over 30 years, horses were used for the show, but in recent years, Roncalli changed its concept and only performed in cities in Germany and Europe, where few green fields are available for animals.
What finally led to this decision?
As a circus, you have to be open to everything, especially the opinion of the public. Because the public is our boss. If you feel that the public doesn’t approve of something, you have to change it.
How did the audience react?
After the announcement that we would no longer use animals during our shows, we received more than 20,000 e-mails and letters from all over the world, 95% of them being positive. When we started our holographic show, the photos and videos soon went viral on social media. In more than 40 countries, Circus Roncalli was featured on the news as the first circus to use holographic animals. In one year our show ‘Storyteller’ attracted more than 600,000 visitors.
Were you afraid that people would be disappointed if they didn’t get to see real animals?
As I said, Roncalli’s focus was never on animals. In 2018, we asked our visitors: ‘What do you expect from a Roncalli show? The answers were as follows:
- Poetic representations
- Nostalgic, authentic circus cars
- Good live music
- Horses (2.7%)
As a circus director, you have to listen to the audience, but also trust your own feelings. I had every confidence in it and was looking forward to surprising the audience with something new.