animated snake tracing a path?

Hi blenderers,

[using blender 2.33a on WinXP-Pro…]

I’m creating a study animation of an snake. The view is above looking down at the ground and snake. I want the snake to trace a curved path around some rocks. I would like for the curving of the snake’s body to be auto-magically calculated instead of manually set.

I have:
Extruded a cube a few times and enabled sub-surfacing to create a soft tube.
Created IKA bones and associated those bones with nearby vertex groups.
Created a path for the armature to follow.

Using pose mode, I can animate a snake wiggling in place (like Medusa’s hair). Parenting the armature to a path, I can have the wiggling snake move across the landscape. Of course, it looks pretty fake since the snake is wiggling independent of his forward motion.

With the IKA armature parented to the path, the snake’s entire body swings wildly back and forth as it advances along the curved path. I’ve tried manually rotating each bone every 10 frames to keep the snakes body on the path. It almost traces the path, but still looks clunky.

QUESTION 1: Is there any way to parent each individual bone to the path?

That way, as the animation proceeds, each bone follows the path exactly. Since each bone would be following the path exactly, the body deformation should also follow the path very closely -similar to train cars following a train track. (Although, a train would be easier! Since you don’t have to stretch skin between cars, you could have seperate objects following the same path.)

QUESTION 2: Hmmmm, is there a way to stretch a skin between seperate objects?

QUESTION 3: Is there a better way to acheive a smooth snake crawling animation effect?

As always, TIA for any tips!!!

you can have IK constraints be to empties which go along the path

you can’t skin between multiple objects but you can obtain the same effect with constraints to those objects on your bones