Cartoon dinosaur character—asking assistance

Alright, it’s time to see if I can garner some more direct advice.

Those of you who recognize this character, please, try to be discrete: at the moment, I’m trying to keep this project a secret; I want it to be a surprise.

Actually, I am attempting this because I have not found a suitable model that suits my preferences for this character. So far I have surprised even myself, utilizing the various tools this wonderful program has to offer, at how close I have come to finalizing this idea.

However, I have hit upon a couple of snags, and this is where I ask for assistance. Whether or not I require technical or aesthetic advice, or perhaps both, I’m not sure. All I know is I have scoured the manuals and tutorials, and yet have come up short on how to make this work exactly as I envision it.

I wish to be able to curve the mouth corners upward or downward to convey emotion. Unfortunately, the Curve modifier only seems to work on entire objects, with no option to restrict it simply to within a section. I have also attempted Hooks and Laplacian Deforms, and Lattices, but I couldn’t quite get it to “look right”.

Speaking of which, I’m also wondering how to get the Freestyle edges to cooperate. If I may interject a suggestion for the next update, perhaps add Contour Marks: like Edge Marks, except you can also mark where you do and don’t want contours to appear. Again, it seems the mouth is giving me the most trouble.

Basically, the “right look” I’m aiming for is actually one of cartoon, and in fact, I’ve prepared the animator for 24 frames per second for this result. Actually, I’m hoping to replicate as close as possible the look of this animation.

Any advice? (698 KB)

P.S. I realize that I can use shape keys for the mouth, but I’m not sure I trust myself to edit each vertex, and so I still would like a simple tool to edit the shape to my liking. I wonder if sculpting would work, but I’m not sure which brush would be ideal, which again, is why I ask the experts here.