How to animate breaking faces

I’m new to Blender, and am stumped on something I’m trying to do. I’d like to animate a deformation which involves destroying and creating new faces. I thought shape keys might work for this, but it seems like shape keys can only move vertices around, not change their connections. Every time I try the original mesh is changed.

Example: Say you wanted to break a tree branch. Before breaking, the branch would be one contiguous mesh. Afterwards, there would be 2 objects, new faces to fill in the space of the breaks, and the faces between the vertices at the edge of the original and broken piece would need to be destroyed so they don’t look screwy when the branch is pulled away.

Thanks.

2-objects. You hit the nail on the head there. Create your unbroken object, then use the fracture script to break it apart.
http://blenderartists.org/forum/showthread.php?t=145074&highlight=fracture

“fracture” is a great word to search on this forum. Lot’s of the threads on this…