German circus replaces live animals with holograms

GERMANY — Go to the Circus Roncalli and you’ll see animals — like a floating ring of horses and an oversized goldfish swimming right by your head.

Sound unreal? You’re right.

The German production uses 3-D holograms at a time when activists and governments are cracking down on cruelty to animals in circuses, the Smithsonian reports. Roncalli founder Bernhard Paul said he got the idea while watching Justin Timberlake sing beside a hologram of the late musician Prince during the 2018 Super Bowl half-time show, per the BBC.

Fifteen designers and software engineers later, Circus Roncalli had an all-holographic animal show, completing a phase-out of live animals the circus had begun in the 1990s.

The production seems popular. Indeed, animal-rights groups have been targeting circuses for years. Following reports of gut-churning cruelty (see this 2011 Mother Jones article), activist groups like PETA hounded the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey until they went out of business in 2017.

Meanwhile, seven U.S. states and 149 counties, towns and cities have joined more than 40 countries in restricting or banning animal performances. Roncalli also saves money by not transporting animals.

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