"I am the one they call when things go wrong, and things have indeed gone wrong,” intones the daunting character Cobra Bubbles in the 2002 hit animated movie "Lilo & Stitch.” For their latest movie, writer-directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois took such a call, facing the daunting challenge of fixing what had gone wrong with a stalled film adaptation and transforming it into a soaring 3-D fantasy-adventure. For their part, the new animated feature "How to Train Your Dragon” might as well be called "How to Revive Your Movie in About a Year.” "This was one of those situations where we were called upon in the 11th hour to take over the film because the story was mired with trouble,” DeBlois said from Dallas in a recent phone interview with both filmmakers. "Chris and I love the challenge of taking really good elements and trying to create a story around them.” "How to Train Your Dragon,” opening today, tells the tale of awkward Viking teen Hiccup (voice of Jay Baruchel), a skinny, creative and witty resident of the isle of Berk. Unfortunately, none of his attributes are appreciated by the tough townsfolk, whose chief concern is fighting off the ferocious dragons that regularly wreak havoc. Despite his scrawniness, Hiccup wants to become a true dragon-slaying Viking, if for no other reason than to please his perpetually disappointed father, Chief Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler). But when Hiccup encounters a wounded dragon, instead of killing it, he dubs it Toothless and forges a friendship that has him rethinking his tribe’s view of their winged neighbors. At the movie’s Los Angeles premiere, DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg called Sanders and DeBlois remarkable talents who have been a credit to the studio since joining it about 18 months ago. DreamWorks Animation spent several years trying to adapt Cressida Cowell’s whimsical 2003 children’s book into an animated adventure before asking the dynamic duo to take over. "When we joined the project, they said, ‘Here’s the deal: We love the world; we love all these different types of dragons, the world of Vikings, the great northern settings. The thing we don’t have is a story that really takes advantage of that world.’ ... The story was just maybe a little too small for their aspirations at the studio,” DeBlois said. The film marks a reunion for DeBlois and Sanders, who first met as writers on the 1998 animated Disney film "Mulan.” They then co-wrote and directed Disney’s Oscar-nominated animated sci-fi hit "Lilo & Stitch.” They were working on separate projects when Sanders was tapped to adopt "Dragon” and called DeBlois to help. "We came on with just a little over a year to not only rewrite the story basically from ground zero but also to get the film done and animate it so that it would make its release date,” DeBlois said. "Jumping into this was pretty exciting because it was a whole new box of tools — most of which we didn’t know how to use at all. But luckily we were surrounded by people who knew how to use them very well. So in a sense, it’s been a great education because it freshened things up for us both technically and creatively.” Despite the time crunch, Sanders and DeBlois opted to completely rethink Toothless, a tiny iguana-like creature in the book. They imagined the cinematic version as a fierce, powerful, yet appealing animal. "He actually is inspired by black panthers ... so he has a feline quality to him. He’s stout and black and powerful and something that the Vikings would all fear. In their lore, he’s the one dragon that they’ve never seen,” DeBlois said. "It seemed appropriate that if Hiccup was going to befriend an enemy, he should befriend the one that they fear the most.” While they came up with the concept, the directors left the actual creation of Toothless to character designers Simon Otto and Takao Noguchi. So, it wasn’t their idea to give the dragon a distinct resemblance to their rowdy alien character Stitch, Sanders laughingly insisted. "It wasn’t intentional, but I guess you can’t really separate us from the movies we do,” DeBlois added. Even the no-nonsense Cobra Bubbles could find nothing wrong with that.