Positing a minor update. With the rig completed for the spine and tail, today I mostly focused on creating a proxy mesh for the newly rigged areas. A handy tool I like to use when building proxy models is zooSurgeon. This neat script takes a skinned mesh, breaks it down to solid segments, and constrains the segments to influencing joints. I incorporate this script in my workflow by first skinning the reduced mesh using solid weights (one joint per vertex), and then running the script to get my true proxy. For me, this is efficient because I can preview the behavior of the proxy prior to breaking down the model.
Also did some cleanup of the scene and noticed an interesting new feature in Maya 2011. I use render nodes in a lot of my rigs and I typically organize them using containers. In Maya 2011, container objects are now displayed in the Outliner, as opposed to being accessible only in the hypershade with other render nodes. I’m not quite sure what to make it yet, but it is disconcerting that I now have another type of object to manually hide from animators.