It was pointed out to me by a fellow deviant that smart objects in photoshop are quite awesome and that I should try them out sometime.
I set out this evening to verify..
and sure enough these things are just about perfect for what I have in mind. ..thats what I get for ignoring the nuts and bolts of the program for so long..
Thanks to ~Cube-Pix
HC35 frames at 12fps, painted / animated in photoshop, assembled in flash.