The Smile, Wave and Walk
The Smile, Wave and Walk to Madagascar was launched on 27 March Brake

The star of the John Lewis Christmas advert hooked up with a real life penguin to launch a schools initiative to encourage pupils to walk to school.

Rhys Edwards, eight, who starred in the popular advert last winter, which attracted more than 23 million YouTube views, led pupils from Albemarle Primary School in Wimbledon on a fun walk as part of the Smile, Wave and Walk to Madagascar project.

It is a joint partnership between road safety charity Brake and DreamWorks. Its aim is to encourage schools from across the country to teach parents and pupils about health benefits of walking to and from school. Incidentally it coincides with DreamWorks' DVD and Blu-ray release of Penguins Of Madagascar.

The campaign is also calling on parents to take more care to drive under 20mph around schools, homes and shops, if they do need to travel by car, to protect children.

Rhys said: "I was thrilled to be asked by DreamWorks and Brake to lead the first Smile, Wave and Walk to Madagascar event. It's a brilliant idea and I hope it will inspire more children, like me, to walk to school instead of taking short car journeys.

"Penguins have been a big part of my life since last winter, so it's great that these amazing animals are being used in such a fun way to get us all walking. I loved my adventures with Monty and miss having him in my life, so having the opportunity to hang out with Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private, as well as a real life penguin, was beyond exciting."

Brake spokesperson Richard Coteau said: "It's great that children can use a film like Penguins Of Madagascar as inspiration to get outdoors and walk to school with friends.

"According to latest figures less than half of children now walk to school and parents, teachers and children themselves need to be reminded of the benefits of walking more – it keeps them active and healthy, and it's a fun way to start and finish the school day. Brake continues to campaign to make roads safer and to make walking to school a fun activity."