May 20, 2022

"The circus as your grandparents or even their parents remember it, fell victim to changing times."

"Feld Entertainment, which owns the [Ringling Brothers] circus, discovered today’s audiences did not want to see animals performing. And today’s kids do not laugh at corny clown acts.... Now the plan is to up the game with human feats that dazzle, astonish, bewilder, while, at the same time, engaging audiences with interactive social media. At times, even during the show....The producers who are bringing the Ringling back to this stage is also the same group of producers who do Disney On Ice, Monster Jam, Sesame Street Live. So they kind of think that they’ve figured the audience out.... And it will not be our parent’s circus. It’ll very different, guys."

From "Ringling Brothers Eyes Comeback With Animal-Free Circus Show Transcript."

This sad transcript made me think of that famous Steve Jobs quote

Some people say, "Give the customers what they want." But that's not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they're going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, "If I'd asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, 'A faster horse!'" People don't know what they want until you show it to them. That's why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.

36 comments:

Caroline said...

There is already a successful circus 2.0–cirque de soleil.
Any re-telling of beloved folk tales or characters will inevitably be put through the woke wood chipper.

wendybar said...

They can redo the side shows like they used to. See the man with a beard. See the pregnant man. Ect..ect..ect.. Except now, to the left..THAT is normal.

wendybar said...

Woman with a beard.

tim maguire said...

Depends on how you interpret "give the people what they want." Sure, most people can't imagine what doesn't exist and if you ask them straight out what they want, they'll tell you that they want the things they have to work better.

That's not really what the adage means. People don't want a faster horse, they want faster. It's up to the entrepreneur to see beyond the horse to something else that will give them what they want better than what they have.

Everybody wants spectacle, but not spectacle that will make them feel bad. For my generation, it was enough to give the animals some exercise and not beat them. For today's kids it means not using animals at all. But they still want spectacle. That hasn't changed.

Wince said...

Althouse said...
This sad transcript made me think of that famous Steve Jobs quote...

Another story I've heard is about the guy whose job it was to follow the circus parade with a broom to sweep-up the elephant dung.

He was asked: Why, after so many years, don't you try to find a better job?

His reply: And leave show business?

MadisonMan said...

I was here to say the same thing Caroline said: Cirque du Soleil. I follow on instagram their contortionist (@galexey94). Wow!

Rollo said...

Whoever made us think clowns were scary and creepy did a very good job.

Was it a conspiracy? No, if you were growing up in an isolated rural community the circus might be your one really exciting experience of a wider world. If you have dozens of ways of entertaining yourself, circuses have all the creepiness of traveling carnivals and sideshows.

Ann Althouse said...

I love Cirque du Soleil. Have seen 3 of their shows -- Mystere, O, and Love -- and would happily see them all again and any of their other shows, but I don't think what Ringling Brothers will do will be so artful. It's more kid oriented and will be like Disney On Ice, Monster Jam, and Sesame Street Live.

Ann Althouse said...

If they're not going to do the *classic circus* then why do we need Ringling Brothers?

Robert Cook said...

Even as a kid, I never enjoyed circuses. They always smelled funky inside the tent (thanks to the animals) and the acts always seemed tawdry and were not very entertaining, (not that I knew the word "tawdry" at the age when I was taken to circuses by my parents). Of course, as is true with most mentally healthy children and adults, I hated the clowns.

Ann Althouse said...

There's also Big Apple Circus. I don't know what that is like these days, but I loved it in the 80s when we took our young sons to see it. It was a one-ring circus, with classic circus acts — trapeze, tight rope (or was it loose rope?), and the animals were limited to horses and (I believe) dogs.

Robert Cook said...

"Another story I've heard is about the guy whose job it was to follow the circus parade with a broom to sweep-up the elephant dung.

"He was asked: Why, after so many years, don't you try to find a better job?

"His reply: And leave show business?"


An oldie but goodie. In truth, many jobs in the entertainment field are essentially just highly-paid variations of sweeping up the elephant shit.

Craig Howard said...

Some people say, "Give the customers what they want."

Local television is famous for focus-grouping viewers to find out what they want. This has led to increasingly saccharine news shows with a lot of happy stuff and less hard reporting. And ratings continue to drop.

I agree with Jobs.

Joe Smith said...

The Jobs quote is brilliant.

I remember the back-and-forth in Silicon Valley tech companies; sales people complaining that engineering wasn't giving them anything they could sell, and engineering complaining that sales people were getting great stuff but didn't know how to sell it...

Rollo said...

I think Henry Ford once said, "If I'd asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, 'A faster horse!'"

Is it possible that the customers weren't entirely wrong?

Tom T. said...

The shutdown of the previous model of the circus had nothing to do with clowns. Society's elites decided, rather, that the circus was downmarket entertainment and should be killed off, so they seized on the idea that elephants should no longer be working in the circus. (It's still ok to use elephants in movies and to keep them in zoos, because that's socially acceptable entertainment).

Kids certainly love elephants, though. A circus that brought them back and enforced humane treatment would succeed in a big way.

Aggie said...

""Give the customers what they want." But that's not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they're going to want before they do." Predictive Marketing is hard, especially when it's about the future.

Kevin said...

The circus as your grandparents or even their parents remember it, fell victim to changing times.

The good-looking clowns moved to MSNBC, the rest to Twitter.

Kevin said...

Sesame Street Live

The one where you learn Elmo is really six feet tall?

Kate said...

The big cats on display at the MGM in Vegas live on a Henderson ranch. Animals rotate in for the casino zoo and then go home. Ringling probably has the largest gathering of elephants in captivity? Just a youtube channel, showing the elephants living a good life, grooming them, even gentle training and their personalities -- Ringling would make a sustainable income without going anywhere. The MGM learned how to give people the show while keeping the animals safe. I hated the circus, and Ringling's new idea sounds hideous. Definitely still trying to make a faster horse.

Anthony said...

I don't find clowns creepy or scary or anything, just dumb and not funny.

Same with transvestites.

Michael K said...

Fortunately, my kids went to the circus in better times and we would even go before it began to see the elephants. And they wonder why depression is rampant in teens.

iowan2 said...

Bad analogy.

Of course you give the customer what they want. (listen, hear, understand) what your customer is communicating to you. A great example, is price points. ALL say they want the cheapest price, but that is very rarely true.

But creating new markets is a very real enterpise. A place where customers don't yet exist.

Musk and satellite internet comes to mind. He found a solution to a problem (infrastructure) and created a fix. No customers involved at the inception. I assume he did surveys on performance expectations and price point.

n.n said...

The... Green blight of environmentalism.

John henry said...

Wince said...

Althouse said...

He was asked: Why, after so many years, don't you try to find a better job?

His reply: And leave show business?


You may think that is apocryphal but it's not.

I probably see a couple of stories a month about how hard it is to make a living as an adjunct professor/instructor. Oh how badly they are treated.

When a skewering they don't get a regular job instead of putting up with the bullshit the answer is invariably some variation on:

"what, and leave academia?"

I adjuncted for 30+ years at 4 different schools. I loved doing it and the money was ok. It was always more a hobby than a job, though and never more than about 10% of my income.

Anyone who tries to make a living at it is a fool.

John LGKTQ Henry


Scott Patton said...

In the late '60s early '70s my Grandmother would insist the family gather around the TV to watch the circus when it would occasionally be on. We youngins where not impressed, but to Grandma it was the greatest show - and for good reason. As kids, we couldn't imagine (and didn't care about) growing up in the very early 20th c.
Now, almost every time I touch an ice cube, the stories of those elders come to mind. They had Ice Wagons! The Crystal Set was their internet.
Yes, a circus was something to look forward to and treasure in memories 60 years later.

Lurker21 said...

If they're not going to do the *classic circus* then why do we need Ringling Brothers?

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus went out of business in 2017.

Any later and they'd have been counted as a COVID fatality.

J Melcher said...

Back in the 1980's a traveling "one-ring" circus came to the small German town where I and a few thousand other American Army guys were awaiting the Russian invasion. Four college-aged performers, two guys and two gals. About like Big Ten university cheerleaders. Strong and limber and good-looking. Tumbling and climbing and jumping and swinging from ropes and trampolines. The guys sometimes quickly painted their faces and pulled on baggy overalls to do duty as clowns. The girls had to change from spangled red swimsuits to striped green swimsuits between acts. There were trained dogs and a bear that could ride a bicycle and a camel that would run around the ring in circles even when one of the humans somersaulted over its hump. Several times there were horses who also ran around the ring while performers somersaulted over their backs. Then the dogs were back jumping into a water tank. ... There was one very old man who did EVERYTHING ELSE. He contorted his body through a small metal hoop. He threw knives at a plywood board around the girl in the swimsuit. He managed the bear. He pulled paper flowers out of an empty cardboard tube. He climbed into the pretend cannon and leaped out (with smoke and noise) into the net across the ring.

It seemed like a window into the circus of some prior century. A dog and pony show.

tcrosse said...

When Harry Cohn, much hated head of Columbia Pictures, died in 1958 his funeral was well-attended. Red Skelton is supposed to have observed that Harry was right: give the people what they want and they'll turn out for it.

Dan in Philly said...

Henry Ford sort of did give the world a faster horse. After all, didn't they call it a horseless carriage? He simply gave them the horseless carriage a little bit cheaper and a little bit more powerful. He did Give the people what they wanted.

Marc said...

Small family-run circuses seem to be a Euro thing in a way they no longer are in the US. I deduce this from four melodrama/mystery television series (Midsomer Murders is the only title I can recall at the moment; the others were French and perhaps Italian) on Amazon, set in the contemporary age, each of which has featured an episode centered on one. Of course this may be due simply to the poverty of the writers and producers' imaginations. Half the 'drama' is motivated by the latest generation wanting to get out of the business, the other half is driven by unrevealed secrets from the past.

Ann Althouse said...

"The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus went out of business in 2017."

Read the headline of the transcript I linked to. At the link: "The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus are returning after a 5-year absence. Closing in part due to pressure from animal activists, they are developing an animal-free show with modern sensibilities."

PM said...

Camera pans to zoos.

Mr. Majestyk said...

I am not an animal rights person. But as a sign of how much the culture has changed in the many decades since I was a kid, when I attended the dolphin show at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium a few years back, I felt a bit uneasy as the trainers had the dolphins do all their tricks.

Bunkypotatohead said...

If they want to draw in the kids they're gonna have to make it a phone app.
Ringling bros and Apple.

Lem said...

"The circus as your grandparents or even their parents remember it, fell victim to changing times."

I hope this is true of abortion on demand.