(Source: Variety) The Motion Picture Academy released its long list of 15 contenders for the Visual Effects Oscar Friday, and there were some surprises, both in what made it, and what didn’t.

Animated features “Coraline” and “Disney’s A Christmas Carol” are still in the running, but already gone from contention are “The Lovely Bones,” “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” and “Night at the Museum 2,” all of which boasted extensive digital vfx.

The 15 still in the Oscar race are: “Angels & Demons”; “Avatar”; “Coraline”; “Disney’s A Christmas Carol”; “District 9″; “G-Force”; “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”; “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince”; “Sherlock Holmes”; “Star Trek”; “Terminator Salvation”; “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”; “2012″; “Watchmen”; “Where the Wild Things Are.”

Three of the titles are in stereoscopic 3D (S3D): “Avatar,” “Coraline” and “G-Force.” The S3D in “Coraline” is likely a factor that helped it beat out titles with more digital vfx.

Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic worked on five of the 15: “Avatar,” “Harry Potter,” “Star Trek,” “Terminator Salvation” and “Transformers 2.” Digital Domain, off last year’s win for “Benjamin Button,” has four contenders: “2012,” “G.I. Joe,” “Star Trek” and “Transformers.

Though its “The Lovely Bones” isn’t in the race, Weta Digital is among the several shops with a pair of contenders: “Avatar,” for which it was the lead shop, and “District 9.”

The most notable omission from the list was Paramount’s “The Lovely Bones,” from helmer Peter Jackson and Weta Digital. Weta Digital is amply represented, though, with “District 9″ and the category’s most touted title for the year, “Avatar.”

The inclusion of “Disney’s A Christmas Carol” confirms the Acad’s vfx branch is open to considering effects in CG-animated features, a point of controversy in tech circles.

Among distribs, Warners has four contenders; Paramount and Sony have three apiece, Disney has two.

Fox has only one, but it’s “Avatar.” Universal’s only entry comes from its specialty label, Focus, which distribbed “Coraline” — always a bad sign for a studio, since vfx contenders typically line up with box office leaders.

The vfx branch’s executive committee will pick from this list in early January to determine the seven pics for the visual effects bakeoff.

The bakeoff will be held at the Academy’s Goldwyn Theater on January 21.

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