I had to animate a character walking through a table top full of food. Now I'm a short guy with not much reach so it was a stretch for me to even get to the character. I had to stand on apple boxes. How was I to get to my puppet without knocking all that food around?
First off let me mention that none of the food was real and done by a terrific artist in wax. Even the lemonade was a solid mixture of silicone or something. I solved my dilemma by first registering the plates of food with corner brackets. Corner brackets are flat metal pieces you can screw or glue down to your table top. I used a thin veneer and cut square pieces the size of each plate that I wanted to register and glued it to the plates bottom. Then I placed the plates on my set and anchored the brackets around two sides of the veneer at the back. This let me pull the plate forward and remove it entirely while I animated my puppet. Using the brackets, I could drop the food back into place and not have to worry about it moving around.
I hope the diagram helps explain things a little better. I might tell you about 'nesting' sometime.
P.S. The music in this video clip is not from the original scene which was the little guy talking.