Weyland-Yutani is a fictional corporation that forms an essential part of the setting of the Alien movie, and its sequels. It is one of the Interstellar Commerce Commission (ICC) corporations that runs the human colonies outside the solar system through the Extrasolar Colonization Administration, has a seat in the Company Review Board, and also has a large presence on Earth.
The specifics of Weyland-Yutani's origins as a fictional construct are unclear: We know that the compound word "Weylan-Yutani" may be viewed at the bottom left of a badly vibrating display screen during the planetoid landing sequence in Alien. It was also printed on the prop beer cans in the film, where it is partially visible in some scenes ("Original and Genuine Weylan-Yutani Aspen Beer - Extra Strong - Aspen Colorado").
When James Cameron was assigned to write and direct the sequel, it is possible he spotted this barely-present name during research, or learned of it from the original writers. Whatever the case, the compound word appearing as "Weylan-Yutani" (omission of "d") in Alien became "Weyland-Yutani" in Cameron's Alien II treatment, its role and significance hugely amplified. Weyland-Yutani is now an indispensable element in Alien lore. Major appearances include several scenes in the 1992 Special Edition cut of Aliens, most of Alien³ (sets, costumes, and other props), and a brief allusion in Alien: Resurrection.
The original Weylan-Yutani logo was an Egyptian winged-sun emblem; it was modified to its current corporo-industrial interlocked W/Y for Aliens.
In Alien³, Weyland-Yutani's name appears on screen several times written in Japanese. It appears once on a box of supplies as ウェイランド湯谷. The first six kana of this are part of the Japanese syllabary katakana which is used to spell foreign words, and here they spell weirando. The second part is the Japanese name Yutani written with two kanji. The corporation's name also appears in a newspaper headline as ウェイランド湯谷株式会社 where the last four kanji read kabushikigaisha which means "joint stock corporation."
As an homage to the Alien movies, the Weyland-Yutani logo was used on some weapons in the dystopian TV series Firefly. Incidentally, that show's creator, Joss Whedon, wrote the third Alien sequel, Alien: Resurrection, where The Company had been long subsumed and forgotten.
Weyland-Yutani is consistently portrayed as having the worst aspects of corporate profiteering, and as being willing to sacrifice decency and human life in the pursuit of profit. In various portrayals of the Aliens universe, the corporation has its hands in all aspects of space colonization and research. In Alien: Resurrection, the company is notably absent (in the novelization, Dr Wren says that it was bought out by Wal-Mart a century prior to the film's start). But in almost every other portrayal of human contact with the Aliens from the popular video games to the original trilogy, they have some involvement. The corporation has consistently ordered its employees and agents to attempt to obtain living Xenomorphs so that they can be exploited as a bio-weapon.
Aliens Vs Predator
In Alien vs. Predator, the founder of this company (then known as Weyland Industries) is shown to be Charles Bishop Weyland. He is played by Lance Henriksen, the actor that played the android Bishop in Aliens and Alien³, suggesting that the android was modelled after him. However, in the novelization of Alien³ (released before Alien Vs. Predator), it is made clear that the Bishop android was created by a Weyland-Yutani employee named Michael Bishop, which the Alien Vs. Predator filmmakers either chose to ignore or did not consider canon. John Yutani, who cofounded the company with Weyland, was originally intended to appear in the film (various actors, such as Gary Busey and Peter Weller, were considered for the role) but this was dropped from the final film.
By the time of Alien: Resurrection, the company no longer exists; an interstellar international political military force called "United Systems Military" now controls all the aspects of previous W-Y involvement, including projectile firing weapons (pulse rifles and smart guns) and all other weapon development contracts.
Origins of name
The old myth is that the name of Weyland-Yutani was introduced by director Ridley Scott, which was named after his old neighbors which he hated with a passion, so it resulted in him deciding to name the evil "company" after them, but in reality, it was created by Ron Cobb, one of the designers of the Nostromo and her crew's uniforms. “One of the things I enjoyed most about Alien was its subtle satirical content. Science fiction films offer golden opportunities to throw in little scraps of information that suggest enormous changes in the world. There's a certain potency in those kinds of remarks. Weylan-Yutani for instance is almost a joke, but not quite. I wanted to imply that poor old England is back on its feet and has united with the Japanese, who have taken over the building of spaceships the same way they have now with cars and supertankers. In coming up with a strange company name I thought of British Leyland and Toyota, but we couldn't use Leyland-Toyota in the film. Changing one letter gave me Weyland, and Yutani was a Japanese neighbor of mine.” — Ron Cobb, "The Authorized Portfolio of Crew Insignias from The United States Commercial Spaceship Nostromo Designs and Realizations" by John Mollo and Ron Cobb
Weyland-Yutani can be seen as a major inspiration for the trope of the evil megacorporation in science fiction. Their stylings can be seen as an influence particularly on Omni Consumer Products (OCP) from the RoboCop movies, the Trioptimum Corporation from the System Shock computer game series, the Union Aerospace Corporation from the Doom computer game series, and the Umbrella Corporation from the Resident Evil video game series. There is also a reference to Weyland-Yutani in the fifth season of the television series Angel, where the legal firm Wolfram and Hart is described as having ties with Yoyodyne, Weyland-Yutani and News Corp. The Blue Sun corporation in the previously mentioned Firefly series has clear influences, and some have pointed to the many similarities in the Starcraft computer game, across the spectrum. An additional Joss Whedon/Firefly reference can be glimpsed in the pilot episode of the preivously mentioned series, when the Weyland-Yutani logo can be seen in the HUD of a stationary gun battery used by Sgt. Malcolm Reynolds.