Go to the Circus Roncalli, and you'll see animals—like a floating ring of horses and an oversized goldfish swimming right by. 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 says he got the idea while watching Justin Timberlake sing beside a hologram of Prince (who was deceased) in 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.
And it seems popular. "Beautiful and amazing. This is the way forward," reads one tweet. "All circuses should follow suit. No animal should ever be abused for our so called 'entertainment.'" 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 US states and 149 counties, towns, and cities have joined over 40 countries in restricting or banning animal performances. Roncalli also saves money by not transporting animals. And who knows, maybe holographs are even cooler than the real thing. (Read more animal cruelty stories.)