Puzzle Piece Plane to Sphere

Hello there, I am working on a project which requires a animation of puzzle pieces coming together to form a sphere. I created the puzzle pieces, assigned individual image textures, and set them equal distances apart. I then joined the individual pieces into a plane. I am now trying to figure out how to wrap the plane around a sphere or morph onto a sphere. I tried working with the shrink wrap using vertex and projection with no success. UV Unwrap may not work for me due to the animation requirement of having all the pieces coming in together morphing into the sphere. Def Stumped.

might be possible using the Warp tool see wiki

also in 2.49 there was a script to do that
but don’t have the ported version in 2.5

also see this one

happy bl

Thank you Ricky, I was able to set up two bend modifiers and key frame the angles to achieve my sphere! Good stuff!!!